TAIPEI (REUTERS) - Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen thanked democratic nations for their support of the island in her Chinese New Year message on Sunday (Jan 30) and pledged to "stride out" into the world, sounding a defiant note in the face of unrelenting Chinese pressure.
China has increased military activity around Taiwan over the past two years and stepped up efforts to limit its international role, lambasting those who have sought to support Taipei or strengthen ties with it.
Beijing regards the island as a renegade province awaiting reunification with the mainland, by force if necessary.
In a short pre-recorded video message a day before the eve of Chinese New Year on Monday, the formal start of the most important holiday in the Chinese-speaking world, Ms Tsai expressed appreciation for growing international support for Taiwan.
"I want to especially thank all democratic partners for their support to Taiwan over the past year," she said. "We will continue to deepen exchanges with all countries and stride out into the world."
Taiwan has been heartened by support not only from the United States, traditionally its most important backer, but also leaders and politicians in Japan, Europe and by the Group of Seven, all of which have angered Beijing.
Ms Tsai neither directly mentioned China nor directly offered it new year greetings, simply extending best wishes to "good friends" around the world celebrating the festival, which is also observed in countries such as Vietnam and South Korea.
Last year, Ms Tsai wished China a happy Lunar New Year, but said she would not yield to Chinese pressure and reiterated a call for dialogue to resume with Beijing, which China rejected.