Ties set to worsen as Tsai rejects 'one country'

Top News | REUTERS 21 May 2020

Taiwan cannot accept becoming part of China under its one country, two systems offer of autonomy, President Tsai Ing-wen said yesterday in rejecting Beijing sovereignty claims and setting the stage for a worsening of ties.

Beijing responded that "reunification" is inevitable and it would never tolerate Taiwan's independence.

In a speech after being sworn in for a second and final term, Tsai said relations between Taipei and Beijing are at a historical turning point.

"Both sides have a duty to find a way to coexist over the long term and prevent the intensification of antagonism," she said.

Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party won January's presidential and parliamentary elections by a landslide, vowing to stand up to the mainland.

"I want to reiterate the words peace, parity, democracy and dialogue," Tsai said. "We will not accept the Beijing authorities' use of one country, two systems to downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo."

The one country, two systems arrangement that applies to Hong Kong is supposed to guarantee a high degree of autonomy, but all major Taiwan parties have rejected it.

Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office, responding to Tsai, said one country, two systems is a central tenet of President Xi Jinping's Taiwan policy and there is no space for Taiwan independence activities.

Tsai says Taiwan is an independent state called the Republic of China - its official name - and does not want to be part of the People's Republic of China.

Beijing has stepped up military drills around Taiwan since Tsai's reelection, sending fighter aircraft and warships over and around the island.

Tsai also said Taipei has made the greatest effort to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, and "we are willing to engage in dialogue with China and make more concrete contributions to regional security."

Taiwan is also a rising source of friction between China and the United States, with the Trump administration backing Taiwan even in the absence of formal ties.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent his congratulations to Tsai on Tuesday, praising her "courage and vision in leading Taiwan's vibrant democracy" in a rare high-level message from Washington direct to Taiwan's government.

The foreign ministry in Beijing condemned Pompeo's remarks and said there would be "necessary countermeasures" - without elaborating.

China cut off a formal talks mechanism - with Taiwan in 2016 after Tsai first won election. Yao Chia-wen, a senior adviser to Tsai, said the chances of talks with Beijing are small given ongoing tensions.

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