Friday June 14, 2024

Taiwan’s president says wants to work with China

During the two-day drills, China vowed that what it described as “independence forces” would be left “with their heads broken and blood flowing”

May 27, 2024
Taiwan President Lai Ching-te seen in this undated photo.— AFP/file
Taiwan President Lai Ching-te seen in this undated photo.— AFP/file 

Taipei: Taiwan’s new president said Sunday he was still ready to work with China, despite this week´s military drills around the self-ruled island.

The drills began around Taiwan Thursday, just three days after Lai Ching-te was sworn in, part of an escalating campaign of intimidation by China which views the island as part of its territory.

During the two-day drills, China vowed that what it described as “independence forces” would be left “with their heads broken and blood flowing”.

Lai told reporters on Sunday that he wanted Taiwan and China to “jointly shoulder the important responsibility of regional stability”.

“I also look forward to enhancing mutual understanding and reconciliation through exchanges and cooperation with China... and moving towards a position of peace and common prosperity,” he said at an event in Taipei.

Communications between China and Taiwan were severed in 2016 after former president Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took office, pledging to defend Taiwan´s sovereignty.

Lai, also a DPP member, had vowed to maintain Tsai´s policies of building up Taiwan´s defence capabilities, while remaining open to dialogue with China and strengthening relations with the island´s partners -- particularly the United States.

Wen-ti Sung, a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council´s Global China Hub, told AFP that Lai would “hold firm to project resolve” during this first interaction between his administration and Beijing.

“However he will no doubt be looking to leverage other international partners and friends to help facilitate more back-channel communications with Beijing,” Sung said.

Since 2016, Beijing has upped military and political pressures on Taiwan, and its naval vessels, drones and warplanes maintain a near-daily presence around the island.

Experts say Beijing is seeking to intimidate and exhaust Taiwan´s military monitoring its activities.

On Sunday, two days after the drills ended, Taiwan´s defence ministry reported that seven Chinese aircraft, 14 naval vessels and four coast guard ships were “operating around” the island in a 24-hour period ending at 06:00 am (2200 GMT Saturday).

The ministry also said in a separate statement that it had found a cardboard box containing political slogans that it said was left by Beijing on a dock in Erdan, an islet part of Taiwan-controlled Kinmen next to China´s Xiamen.

The defence ministry shrugged off the incident, saying it suspected it was intended to create online chatter.

Lai´s first week in office also saw tens of thousands take to the streets of Taipei to protest bills proposed in parliament by the opposition Kuomintang -- regarded as pro-Beijing -- and Taiwan People´s Party.

DPP lawmakers have been accusing the opposition of forcing the bills -- which expand parliament´s powers -- through without proper consultation.

With Lai´s DPP no longer holding the majority in parliament, his party will face challenges in passing his administration´s policies, such as bolstering the defence budget.

“The pressures are coming fast and early for the Lai administration,” Amanda Hsiao of the International Crisis Group told AFP.

“This is going to be a major test of their ability to manage multiple challenges, domestic and external, at the same time.”