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Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen had a clear message for Beijing as she spoke to reporters in New York on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

Taiwan won’t give in to Beijing as it seeks UN membership, island’s President Tsai Ing-wen says

  • Just days after US agrees US$2.2 billion arms deal, leader of self-ruled island hosts unprecedented reception for diplomatic allies at de facto embassy in New York
  • Taipei ‘will never succumb to any threats, now or in the future’, she says

Taiwan will not bend to pressure from Beijing to give up its ambition of joining the United Nations, the island’s President Tsai Ing-wen told a group of UN permanent representatives at an unprecedented high-profile reception at its de facto embassy in New York on Thursday.

The event, at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, was attended by 17 officials, most of them envoys from nations with which Taiwan still has diplomatic ties, including Paraguay, Belize, Nauru, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

It was also the first of its kind to be open to the media, as Taiwan’s leaders have been prohibited from making public appearances during transit stops in the US since Washington switched its diplomatic allegiance to Beijing from Taipei in 1979.

“Taiwan will never succumb to any threats [from Beijing], now or in the future,” the presidential office quoted Tsai as saying. “Any obstacles will only strengthen Taiwan’s resolution to join the international community.”

Before Thursday, Taiwan’s leaders had been prohibited from making public appearances during transit stops in the US. Photo: Reuters

Tsai arrived in New York on Thursday at the start of a 12-day tour of the region and was expected to spend two days in the city before heading to the Caribbean nations of Haiti, Saint Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and St Lucia. She is also set to spend two nights in Denver, Colorado on her return journey.

During the reception, Tsai said that Taiwan’s 23 million people had the right to be part of international affairs and should not be hampered by “political interference”.

Tsai heads to US, warning of threat from ‘overseas forces’

She also called on the assembled representatives to voice their support for Taiwan joining the UN when it meets for its general assembly in September.

St Vincent and the Grenadines secured its seat as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council just last month.

Beijing has already voiced its anger at Tsai’s stopover in New York, where the UN has its headquarters, and urged Washington to remember its commitment to the “one China” policy and the “three communiqués” that underline relations between the US and mainland China.

Since becoming president in 2016, Tsai has made numerous trips to the US as preambles to diplomatic tours of the Caribbean. Her most recent was in March, when she spent a day in Hawaii.

The tension surrounding her latest visit was played out on the streets of New York, where police had to maintain order as hundreds of people who had turned out to greet her became involved in a slanging match and scuffles with a group of pro-Beijingers, according to local media reports.

Tsai’s supporters clash with pro-Beijingers on the streets of New York. Photo: Reuters

Beijing, which considers Taiwan a wayward province awaiting reunification with the mainland, has repeatedly warned Washington against welcoming the president of the self-ruled island or supplying it with arms.

Tsai’s trip came just days after the US approved the sale of US$2.2 billion worth of military equipment to Taiwan.

“This represents not only the United States’ support for Taiwan, but will also boost Tsai’s chance in next year’s presidential elections,” Fan Shih-ping, a professor of political science at National Taiwan Normal University, said in reference to both the arms deal and the diplomatic reception.

On Friday, Tsai was expected to attend a meeting organised by the US-Taiwan Business Council and the Taiwan External Trade Development Council, and a seminar with academics from Columbia University.

She is also set to meet a number of US politicians and a group of Taiwanese students before heading to Haiti on Saturday.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Taipei vows to pursue UN membership