Taiwan will not bow to pressure from Beijing and will continue to strengthen its defense, its president said on Sunday, one day after his Chinese counterpart promised a peaceful “reunification” with the democratic island.
Speaking at a rally to celebrate Taiwan National Day, President Tsai Ing-wen said her government will not “act rashly” but added that “there should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to the pressure.”
She said she hoped for some relaxation on the cross strait.
Her speech, delivered outside the presidential office in central Taipei, was driven home by a rare demonstration of Taiwan’s defense capabilities in a parade – carrying an array of weapons, including armored vehicles, fighter jets and helicopters.
It came a day after Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to bring about peaceful reunification with Taiwan.
“Taiwan’s independence separatism is the greatest obstacle to the reunification of the motherland and the greatest hidden threat to national rejuvenation,” he said on the anniversary of the revolution that overthrew the last imperial dynasty in 1911.
Beijing regards Taiwan as an illegitimate breakaway province that is part of its territory. When the communists won their civil war against the nationalists in 1949, the nationalists established a rival government in Taipei that has governed itself ever since.
Xi’s comments were met with an angry reaction from Taipei, saying that only Taiwanese can decide their future. It came amid repeated Chinese incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, which have increased significantly in recent weeks.
These incursions led to criticism from the State Department, which last week accused China of “provocative military activity” against Taiwan. Spokesman Ned Price said China’s actions are “destabilizing,” risking misjudgments and undermining peace and stability in the region.
Tsai said Sunday that Taiwan’s situation is “more complex and fluid than it has ever been in the past 72 years,” and that China’s routine military presence in Taiwan’s air defense zone has seriously affected national and aviation security.
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“We will continue to strengthen our national defense and demonstrate our determination to defend ourselves to ensure that no one can force Taiwan to follow the path China has given us,” she said.
“That’s because the path China has mapped out offers neither a free and democratic way of life for Taiwan nor sovereignty for our 23 million people,” she said.
The Taiwanese leader added that the island would do everything possible to prevent the status quo with China from being “unilaterally changed”.
Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Bureau, condemned Tsai’s speech and told the state-run Xinhua News Agency that it was inciting confrontation and distorting the facts.
“Taiwan is part of China. Although the two sides of the strait have not been fully united since 1949, the fact that the mainland and Taiwan are part of the same China has never and cannot be changed. China’s sovereignty and territories have never been like that . ” be shared and never allowed to be shared, “he said.
“Realizing the complete reunification of the motherland is the common desire of the Chinese people at home and abroad and the common will of the Chinese nation. Taiwan is the motherland’s treasure island, ”he added.
Ed Flanagan, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed.