Taipei: People hold up guavas as they take part in a protest organised by the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) against the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ahead of the inauguration ceremony of Taiwan’s president-elect Lai Ching-te and vice-president-elect Hsiao Bi-khim, on Sunday.—AFP
Taipei: People hold up guavas as they take part in a protest organised by the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) against the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ahead of the inauguration ceremony of Taiwan’s president-elect Lai Ching-te and vice-president-elect Hsiao Bi-khim, on Sunday.—AFP

KINMEN: Taiwan’s coast guard ramped up patrols over the weekend around outlying islands that have seen increased presence of Chinese vessels, the agency said on Sunday, the day before Lai Ching-te’s inauguration as Taiwan’s new president. China has also in recent months deployed coast guard ships around Kinmen, an outlying island administered by Taipei located just five kilometres (three miles) from the Chinese city of Xiamen.

Taipei’s Coast Guard Adminis­tra­tion said it had sent personnel to “patrol all hours of the day and night” around Taiwan’s three major outlying islands: Kinmen, Matsu and Penghu.

“In order to ensure the security of the sea area and border safety during the inauguration ceremony, the Ocean Affairs Council’s Coast Guard Administration’s Kinmen-Matsu-Penghu Division once again implemented a powerful patrol operation... to closely monitor suspicious targets,” it said in a statement.

“The Kinmen-Matsu-Penghu Divi­sion said that the national security work will not slacken during the important celebrations,” it added.

Kinmen has been the site of heightened tensions after Lai — who China has branded a “dangerous separatist” — was elected in Taiwan’s January elections.

In attendance on Monday at the ceremony will be former US officials dispatched by President Joe Biden, lawmakers from countries including Britain, Japan, Germany and Canada, and leaders from some of the 12 nations which still maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taipei. Lai’s domestic challenges loom large too, given his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lost its parliamentary majority in the January election.—Agencies

On the eve of Lai’s inauguration, Taipei’s defence ministry said it had detected seven Chinese aircraft and seven naval vessels around Taiwan in the 24-hour period leading up to 06am on Sunday.

Across the strait in the Chinese seaside city of Pingtan — also home to a military base — reporters saw at least two military transport helicopters fly overhead. Lai, like outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen, rejects China’s claims over Taiwan.

He has vowed to defend the island’s democracy while appealing to Beijing to resume high-level communications — severed since 2016.

Speaking at a reception for international delegations attending the inauguration, Lai said he was “truly grateful” for the show of support for the island. “We will continue to walk on the path of democracy and we will continue to engage with the world to make Taiwan stronger,” he said in a brief speech. “We hope to continue to have your strong support.”

Goodwill to China

Taiwan’s next president Lai Ching-te will express “concrete” goodwill towards China in his inauguration speech on Monday, and call for both sides of the Taiwan Strait to pursue peace, according to a senior official briefed on the matter.

Lai, who takes over from President Tsai Ing-wen having served as her vice president for the past four years, will say that Taiwan will continue to be a promoter of regional peace and stability, the official said.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2024

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