Taiwan’s leader says island will not bow to China

Published October 11, 2021
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen waves during the national day celebration in Taipei, Taiwan, October 10. — Reuters
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen waves during the national day celebration in Taipei, Taiwan, October 10. — Reuters

TAIPEI: Taiwan will not bow to pressure by Beijing and will defend its democratic way of life, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Sunday, following an alleged spike in incursions by Chinese warplanes into its air defence zone.

Self-governed Taiwan’s 23 million people live under the constant threat of invasion by China, which views the island as its territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary.

“The more we achieve, the greater the pressure we face from China,” Tsai said in a speech marking Taiwan’s National Day, adding: “Nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us.” She described Taiwan as “standing on democracy’s first line of defence”.

“We hope for an easing of... relations (with Beijing) and will not act rashly, but there should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure,” she added.

The two sides have been ruled separately since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

Tensions have risen to their highest in decades under Chinese President Xi Jinping, who broke off official communication with Taipei following Tsai’s election five years ago and ramped up economic, diplomatic and military pressure.

The latest flare-up has been a surge in flights by Chinese fighter jets and nuclear-capable bombers into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ).

Some 150 sorties were made into the zone in the days surrounding China’s own National Day on October 1 — a record number.

Three Chinese planes, including two fighter jets, crossed into the zone on Sunday, according to Taiwan’s defence ministry.

‘Complete reunification’

Xi has made taking Taiwan a key goal of his leadership which he looks set to extend to a third term in 2022.

On Saturday, he declared in a speech that “the complete reunification of our country will be and can be realised”.

He said he favoured “peaceful reunification” but his words come after months of increased military threats, including the recent surge in air incursions as well as heavily publicised military drills simulating an invasion of Taiwan.

Last year, there were a record 380 sorties. There have already been more than 600 this year.

The ADIZ is not the same as Taiwan’s territorial airspace. It includes a far greater area that overlaps with part of China’s own air defence identification zone and even includes some of the mainland.

Tsai, who has won two elections, is loathed by Beijing because she regards Taiwan as an “already independent” country, not part of “one China”.

But she has also made no move to declare formal independence, something Beijing has long warned would be a “red line” that would trigger an invasion.

She has also made offers for talks with Beijing that have been rejected.

During Sunday’s speech, Tsai reiterated her call for Beijing “to engage in dialogue on the basis of parity” and said she supported maintaining the current status quo between the two neighbours.

But she warned what happens to Taiwan would have major regional and global repercussions.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2021

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