Taiwan's leader extends another olive branch to Beijing government

President Tsai Ing-wen says Taiwan is ready for "meaningful" talks with China as equals.
President Tsai Ing-wen says Taiwan is ready for "meaningful" talks with China as equals.

TAIPEI • Taiwan is ready to have "meaningful" talks with China as equals as long as they are willing to put aside confrontation, President Tsai Ing-wen said yesterday, offering another olive branch to Beijing in her New Year's speech.

Democratic Taiwan, claimed by China as its sovereign territory, has come under increasing pressure from Beijing, which has ramped up military activity near the island.

China, angered at growing American support for the self-governed island, says it is responding to "collusion" between Washington and Taipei.

Beijing views US support for the island as a precursor to Taiwan declaring formal independence, a red line for China.

Speaking at the presidential office, Ms Tsai said that in the past year, Chinese military activities near Taiwan had threatened peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

"I want to reiterate, that when it comes to cross-strait relations we will not advance rashly and will stick to our principles," Ms Tsai said.

"As long as the Beijing authorities are determined to defuse antagonism and improve cross-strait relations, in line with the principles of reciprocity and dignity, we are willing to jointly promote meaningful dialogue," she added, echoing comments she made last October in her national day speech.

China, which cut off a formal mechanism for talks in 2016 after Ms Tsai first won office, has repeatedly rejected her advances, saying she has to first accept that Taiwan is part of China, something Ms Tsai has refused to do.

Ms Tsai also expressed her hope that once the Covid-19 epidemic is under control, "normal and orderly exchanges to increase understanding and reduce misunderstandings" between people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait can resume.

Switching to English, Ms Tsai said she was deeply grateful for the international community's continued backing for Taiwan, adding: "Our democracy is stronger because of your support."

While there was no direct response from Beijing, Mr Liu Jieyi, the head of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, said in his New Year's message that they would stand by the "one China" principle.

"Only by eliminating the scourge of 'Taiwan independence' can there be peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait," he said.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 02, 2021, with the headline Taiwan's leader extends another olive branch to Beijing government. Subscribe