On October 27th, Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen gave an exclusive interview to CNN, saying that the “threat from China” is increasing every single day.
She also admitted that US military trainers are present on the island.
“Here is this island of 23 million people trying hard every day to protect ourselves and protect our democracy and making sure that our people have the kind of freedom they deserve,” she said.
“If we fail, then that means people that believe in these values would doubt whether these are values that they (should) be fighting for.”
Tsai became the first Taiwan President in decades to acknowledge the presence of US troops on the island for training purposes.
The last official US garrison left in 1979, the year Washington switched formal diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing, though last year media reports hinted at small deployments.
Washington’s commitment to Taiwan’s defence so far has mainly involved arms deliveries and the question of military assistance was deliberately left open in the past because it would be seen by China as a violation of its “One China” principle.
She also called on regional partners to support Taiwan. The US, Japan and Australia have expressed serious concerns over Beijing’s stepped-up military incursions into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone.
“When authoritarian regimes demonstrate expansionist tendencies, democratic countries should come together to stand against them. Taiwan is on the front lines,” she said.
Tsai said she has faith that Washington would defend Taiwan if China attacked “given the long-term relationship we have with the US.”
US President Joe Biden last week pledged more clearly than his predecessors that the US would defend Taiwan in such a situation, in comments that drew criticism from China.
Tsai said the Chinese Communist party needed to decide what sort of relationship it wanted with the world.
“Does Xi want to have a peaceful relationship with everybody in the region or in the world, or does he want to be a in a dominant position so that everybody listens to him, listens to China?” she said.
Tsai first came to power in 2016, and was reelected in 2020. Beijing considers her stance of Taiwan being a sovereign nation with no need to declare independence as separatist, and has refused to engage with her government.
Speaking to CNN, Tsai said more communication “would be helpful” between the two governments “so we can reduce misunderstandings”.
“Given our differences in terms of political systems, we can sit down and talk about our differences and try to make arrangements so we can coexist peacefully,” she said.
In a statement to mark 50 years of UN, US secretary of state Antony Blinken, said he regretted that Taiwan had been increasingly excluded on the world stage.
“Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the UN system is not a political issue, but a pragmatic one. That is why we encourage all UN member states to join us in supporting Taiwan’s robust, meaningful participation throughout the UN system and in the international community,” he said.
In response, China emphasised its position that Taiwan’s government had no place on the global diplomatic stage.
“Taiwan has no right to join the United Nations,” Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office in Beijing, said. “The United Nations is an international governmental organisation composed of sovereign states … Taiwan is a part of China.”
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