China has denounced Taiwan’s national day speech, during which President Tsai Ing-wen said her government will not bow down to pressure from Beijing and will continue to bolster the island’s defences in order to protect its democratic way of life.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said on Sunday that Tsai’s speech incited confrontation and distorted facts, adding that seeking Taiwan independence closes the door to dialogue. Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway province.
Tsai’s strong words on Sunday came a day after Chinese President Xi Jinping promised once again to realise “peaceful reunification” with the self-ruled territory.
“No one should underestimate the Chinese people’s strong determination, will and capability to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Xi had said.
Speaking earlier on Sunday, Tsai said Taiwan will keep bolstering its defences to ensure nobody can force the island to accept the path China has laid down, offering neither freedom nor democracy, and repeated a call for talks with Beijing.
Growing military pressure
Taiwan has come under growing military and political pressure to accept Beijing’s rule, including repeated Chinese air force incursions into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone.
Speaking in central Taipei at the island’s national day celebrations, which included a rare show of Taiwanese defence capabilities, Tsai said her government will not “act rashly” but “there should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure”.
The speech was followed by the parading of a range of weaponry, including missile launchers and armoured vehicles, while fighter jets and helicopters soared overhead.
The show of airpower was followed by a group of CM32 tanks and trucks carrying missile systems.
Known formally as the Republic of China (ROC), Taiwan is a democratically governed island that lies about 161km (100 miles) off the coast of mainland China.
China claims Taiwan as part of its national territory, although the island has been self-ruled since it split from the communist-ruled mainland in 1949 after a long civil war.
The 65-year-old President Tsai is considered a separatist by Beijing for her refusal to acknowledge that Taiwan is part of “one China”.
Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Hong Kong, described Tsai’s speech as “defiant” and said it reflected the “prevailing view in Taiwan at the moment, where the majority of the people are equally resistant to the increase in pressure from mainland China”.
“Reunification with Taiwan has been the goal of Chinese presidents ever since the formation of the People’s Republic of China and Xi is determined to achieve this under his leadership,” said McBride.
Beijing has pledged to bring the island under its control by military force if necessary.