March 29, 2023

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) – China’s threats of military action against Taiwan are “absolutely not an option” and will “only push our two sides further apart,” Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said Monday.

On Taiwan’s National Day, Tsai said China should not mistake competition within Taiwan’s multiparty democratic political system for weakness and “an attempt to divide Taiwanese society”.

“I want to make it clear to the Beijing authorities that armed confrontation is absolutely not an option for our two sides,” Tsai said.

“Only by respecting the Taiwanese people’s commitment to our sovereignty, democracy and freedom can there be a basis for resuming constructive interaction in the Taiwan Strait,” she said.

Fighter planes and a Chinook helicopter flying the flag of Taiwan flew over while the band from the First Girls’ High School in Taipei played hits ranging from the Beatles to Lady Gaga.

National Day included international guests such as Palau President Surangel S. Whipps Jr., whose blue and yellow flag of the country waved alongside the red flag of Taiwan with its blue square and white star.

Despite expressing Taiwan’s stamina as an independent political entity with a thriving democracy and free press, the holiday—commonly known as “Double Ten” in Taiwan—commemorates a 1911 uprising by troops in the Chinese city of Wuhan that eventually led to the fall of the Qing dynasty. China’s Communist Party swept the mainland’s Nationalist government during a civil war in 1949 and continues to claim the island.

Tsai’s speech largely focused on Taiwan’s success in strengthening the social security grid for an aging society and continuing to grow its high-tech economy despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

See also  Twitter adopts automated moderation in response to hate speech explosions

But she also emphasized Taiwan’s Stepped Up Efforts to protect itself from the threat from China, both with increased imports of foreign hardware and the revitalization of the domestic arms industry and improved training for reserves. Tsai cited Taiwan’s submarine development program and the delivery of the first domestically developed and built 10,000-tonne landing pad dock Yushan as particular successes.

Russia’s war on Ukraine has refocused attention on China and the methods by which Taiwan can withstand a much larger and more powerful enemy equipped with the world’s largest standing army and a vast arsenal of missiles.

That was underlined when China launched threatening military exercises around the island in response to a visit from US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in early August.

Those include directing ships and planes across the centerline of the Taiwan Strait, which has long been a buffer zone between the sides. China also declared test zones around the island in some of the world’s most trafficked shipping lanes and fired at least four missiles over Taiwan, some of which landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

Japan diplomatically protested the missile strikes and signed a statement from the Group of Seven Industrialized Countries criticizing the looming war games.

Despite Beijing’s threats, US and other foreign diplomats have continued to visit Taiwan, and Washington’s involvement in the defense of Taiwan only appears to be growing.

Although Taipei and Washington do not have formal diplomatic relations – a concession made to Beijing in establishing official ties in 1979 – US law requires Taipei to be able to defend itself. It also requires Washington to consider all threats to the island as matters of “serious concern.”

See also  Elon Musk says Tesla’s Optimus humanoid robot will eventually cost ‘less than a car’

That commitment has long rested on the concept of “strategic ambiguity” — that while Washington wants Taiwan’s status to be resolved peacefully, it won’t say whether US troops can be sent in response to a Chinese attack — which has gradually eroded as China’s threat has increased.

US President Joe Biden said in a CBS “60 Minutes” interview last month that “US troops, American men and women, would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.”

The White House said after the interview that US policy towards Taiwan has not changed.

Last month, the Biden administration announced a $1.09 billion arms sale to Taiwan, including $355 million for Harpoon air-to-sea missiles and $85 million for Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, the State Department said.

However, the bulk of the sale is a $655 million logistics support package for Taiwan’s surveillance radar program, which issues air defense alerts.

The State Department said the equipment is needed for Taiwan to “maintain adequate self-defense capability”.

After Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Party wiped him out of the mainland in 1949 during a civil war, the flag of Taiwan and other political traditions were transferred to Taiwan, a former Japanese colony, when the island was under siege at the end of World War II. Chinese rule was restored.

Chiang ruled with an iron fist until his death in 1975, and with the end of martial law in 1987, Taiwan gradually took on the trappings of a modern democracy.

However, China has refused to recognize Taiwanese self-determination and has refused to recognize or have any formal contacts with Tsai’s government since her first of two terms began in 2016.

See also  Taiwan extends conscription to counter increasing threat from China

In addition to exerting military pressure, Beijing has prevented Taiwan from participating in international health, economic and cultural forums and has banned a number of imports from the island, apparently in violation of World Trade Organization rules.


Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of Conduct. De Ster does not endorse these opinions.