Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen tells visiting US scholars Beijing’s ‘bullying’ is to blame for tensions

President says continued suppression has pushed self-ruled island to work more closely with United States

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 June, 2018, 7:32pm
UPDATED : Friday, 22 June, 2018, 11:17pm

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday blamed Beijing for escalating cross-strait tensions, saying it has resulted in the self-ruled island drawing closer to Washington as it tries to counter pressure from the mainland.

During a meeting at her office with scholars from a Washington-based think tank led by Richard Bush, a former unofficial US envoy to Taiwan, Tsai said non-stop suppression from the mainland had only pushed Taipei to work more closely with the United States.

“Despite the latest changes in the Asia-Pacific region or in the Taiwan Strait, South China Sea or the Korean peninsula, being a responsible member of the international society, Taiwan has done all it can to maintain the cross-strait status quo in order to maintain peace, prosperity and development in the region,” she told Bush and others from the Brookings Institution.

“But regrettably, China has continued to increase its suppression against Taiwan,” Tsai said.

She listed as evidence Beijing’s unilateral launch of a new aviation corridor over the Taiwan Strait, encirclement drills by its fighter jets and navy vessels around the island, forcing foreign companies to designate Taiwan as a province of China on their websites, and barring Taipei from involvement with world bodies.

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“But China’s bullying will not alter Taiwan’s resolve to reach out to the world,” Tsai said.

The Taiwanese leader said that bullying was to blame for changes to the cross-strait status quo which would undermine peace and stability in the region, and it was not conducive to good ties or welcomed by the international community.

Beijing – which sees Taiwan as a renegade province subject to reunification by force if necessary – suspended official exchanges with Taipei after Tsai, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, refused to accept the “one China” principle after she became president in 2016.

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Tsai told the US visitors that Beijing’s suppression would not stop the island from reaching out to the world.

“We will closely collaborate with the US and other like-minded countries to contribute to peace, prosperity and stability in the region,” she said.

Tsai also expressed her appreciation for America’s support of Taiwan over the past two years.

That included Washington’s decision to approve sales of defensive weapons to Taiwan, its commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act, exchanges of senior government officials and licences to allow US contractors to take part in its submarine-building programmes, and its support for Taiwan to participate in international groups, she said.

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Tsai also hailed the recent dedication ceremony for the American Institute in Taiwan’s new US$255 million office compound in Taipei as a milestone in US-Taiwan relations and a symbol of firm American commitment to supporting Taiwan. The AIT represents US interests in Taiwan in the absence of formal ties between the two sides.

It was not known how Bush responded during the meeting with Tsai as he was not immediately available for comment. But he has said previously that Beijing was apparently unwilling to deal with Tsai and would continue its suppression against the island.