China’s president, Xi Jinping, has vowed to realise “reunification” with Taiwan, without mentioning the use of force, after a week of tensions.
Taiwan responded shortly after by calling on Beijing to abandon its coercion, reiterating that only Taiwan’s people could decide their future.
Democratically run Taiwan has come under increased military and political pressure to accept Beijing’s sovereignty, but Taiwan says it is an independent country, using its formal name: the Republic of China.
Speaking at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on Saturday, Xi said the Chinese people had a “glorious tradition” of opposing separatism.
“Taiwan’s independence separatism is the biggest obstacle to achieving the reunification of the motherland, and the most serious hidden danger to national rejuvenation,” he said on the anniversary of the revolution that overthrew China’s last imperial dynasty in 1911. Taiwan marks 10 October, when the revolution began, as its national day.
Xi said “reunification through a peaceful manner is the most in line with the overall interest of the Chinese nation, including Taiwan compatriots”, but added that China will protect its sovereignty and unity.
“No one should underestimate the Chinese people’s staunch determination, firm will, and strong ability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Xi said.
“The historical task of the complete reunification of the motherland must be fulfilled, and will definitely be fulfilled.”
He struck a slightly softer tone than in July, his last major speech mentioning Taiwan, in which he vowed to “smash” any attempts at formal independence. In 2019, he directly threatened to use force to bring the island under Beijing’s control.
Taiwan’s presidential office said they were a sovereign independent country, not part of the People’s Republic of China, and had clearly rejected China’s offer of “one country, two systems” to rule the island.
“The nation’s future rests in the hands of Taiwan’s people,” the office said.
In a separate statement, Taiwan’s China policy-making Mainland Affairs Council called on Beijing to “abandon its provocative steps of intrusion, harassment and destruction” and return to talks.
China’s air force mounted four straight days of incursions into Taiwan’s air defence zone from 1 October, involving close to 150 aircraft.
Speaking shortly before Xi, Taiwan’s premier, Su Tseng-chang, noted that China had been “flexing its muscles” and causing regional tensions.
“This is why countries that believe in freedom, democracy and human rights, and based on shared values, are all working together and have repeatedly warned that China should not invade Taiwan,” Su said. -The Guardian
With Reuters and Associated Press