Taiwan president says island does not seek military confrontation

But amid rising tensions with China, Tsai Ing-wen says island will do what is necessary to defend itself.

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, (left), says while the island does not seek confrontation it will defend its 'freedom and democratic way of life' [File: Chiang Ying-ying/AP Photo]

Taiwan does not seek military confrontation but will do whatever it takes to defend its freedom and democratic way of life, President Tsai Ing-wen has said, amid a rise in tensions with China that has sparked alarm around the world.

Taiwan, claimed by Beijing as its own territory, reported nearly 150 Chinese air force aircraft flew into its air defence zone over a four-day period beginning last Friday, China’s National Day.

The sorties now appear to have ended.

Taiwan has complained for more than a year of such activities, which it views as “grey zone warfare”, designed to wear out Taiwan’s armed forces and test their ability to respond.

“Taiwan does not seek military confrontation,” Tsai told a security forum in Taipei on Friday.

“It hopes for a peaceful, stable, predictable and mutually beneficial coexistence with its neighbours. But Taiwan will also do whatever it takes to defend its freedom and democratic way of life.”

China says it is acting to protect its security and sovereignty and has blamed the United States, Taiwan’s most important international backer and arms supplier, for the current tensions.

Tsai told the forum that prosperity in the Indo-Pacific, where there are many opportunities, needs a peaceful, stable and transparent environment.

“But this also brings new tensions and systemic contradictions that could have a devastating effect on international security and the global economy if they are not handled carefully.”

Taiwan will work together with other regional countries to ensure stability, she added.

“Taiwan is fully committed to collaborating with regional players to prevent armed conflict in the East China, South China Seas and in the Taiwan Strait.”

Taiwan has been seeking the support of other democracies around the world as its relations with China worsen, and this week played host to four French senators and former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, although he is visiting in a personal capacity.

Abbott, speaking at the same forum, condemned China for its aggressive actions, not only towards Australia, whose relations with Beijing have deteriorated sharply but also Taiwan.

“Its relative power might have peaked with its population ageing, its economy slowing and its finances creaking. It is quite possible that Beijing could lash out disastrously quite soon,” he said.

Abbott added that he did not believe the US could sit by and watch China “swallow up” Taiwan.

“I don’t believe Australia should be indifferent to the fate of a fellow democracy of almost 25 million people.”

Source: Reuters