President Tsai Ing-wen said in her New Year’s speech on Friday that Taiwan is eager to engage “meaningful” negotiations with China on an equal footing as long as both sides are willing to put aside their differences.
Democratic Taiwan, claimed by China as its sovereign territory, has come under increasing pressure from Beijing, which has ramped up military action around the island.
China claims it is retaliating for what it calls “collusion” between Washington and Taipei, citing increased US support for the self-governing island. Beijing sees this as a forerunner to Taiwan formally declaring independence, which would be a red line for China.
Tsai said in a speech at the presidential office that Chinese military activity near Taiwan had undermined peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region during the past year.
“I want to reiterate that when it comes to cross-strait relations, we will not advance rashly and will stick to our principles,” Tsai said.
“As long as the Beijing authorities are determined to defuse antagonism and improve cross-strait relations, in line with the principles of reciprocity and dignity, we are willing to jointly promote meaningful dialogue,” she added, echoing comments she made in October in her national day speech.
China has repeatedly rebuffed Tsai’s proposals, claiming that she must first embrace Taiwan’s status as part of China, which she has failed to do.
Tsai expressed her hope that once the COVID-19 epidemic is under control, people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait may continue “normal and orderly exchanges to increase understanding and reduce misunderstandings.”
While Beijing did not respond directly, Liu Jieyi, the head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, stated in his new year’s address that the “one China” policy will be upheld.
“Only by eliminating the scourge of ‘Taiwan independence’ can there be peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” he said.
Tsai switched to English and expressed her gratitude for the international community’s sustained support for Taiwan.
“Our democracy is stronger because of your support.”