Taiwan’s president has urged China to curb its “military adventurism” as tensions between the two sides reach their highest level in years.
Beijing has ramped up military and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan since Tsai Ing-wen came to power in 2016, as she rejects the stance that the island is Chinese territory.
China claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has increased military and diplomatic pressure in the past two years to assert its sovereignty claims.
“We must remind the Beijing authorities to not misjudge the situation and to prevent the internal expansion of ‘military adventurism’,” Tsai said on Saturday in her New Year’s speech.
Chinese warplanes have made a historically high number of incursions into Taiwan’s air defence zone in recent months.
Tsai added that authorities in Beijing “should stop the spread of military adventurism within their ranks”.
“The use of military means is absolutely not an option for resolving the differences between our two sides.”
She said that to ease tension in the region, both Taipei and Beijing must “work hard to take care of people’s livelihoods and calm the hearts of the people” in order to find peaceful solutions to problems together.
In his new year address, China’s President Xi Jinping declared that “the complete reunification of our motherland is an aspiration shared by people” in both China and Taiwan.
On Saturday, after Tsai’s speech, Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson of the Taiwan Affairs Office in Beijing, said: “We are willing to strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification.
“But if ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces continue to provoke and coerce, or even cross any red line, we will have to take decisive measures.”
The pursuit of independence will only throw Taiwan into a “deep chasm” and bring about “profound catastrophe”, Zhu added.
In October last year, Taiwan’s defence ministry warned that military tensions with China were at their highest in four decades after a record number of Chinese jets entered its air defence zone.
Beijing has also stepped up efforts in recent years to isolate Taiwan on the international stage.
It regards any formal declaration of an “independent” Taiwan as a provocation and has repeatedly threatened consequences for countries that support Taipei in its self-determination.
Beijing has encouraged Taiwan’s dwindling diplomatic allies to switch sides.
Most recently, Nicaragua recognised Beijing over Taipei, and China opened its embassy in the Central American nation on Friday.
In her address, Tsai also said Taiwan would continue to monitor the situation in Hong Kong, adding that interference in the recent legislative election and the arrests this week of senior staff at the pro-democracy media outlet Stand News “made people worry even more about human rights and freedom of speech in Hong Kong”.
“We will hold fast to our sovereignty, uphold the values of freedom and democracy, defend territorial sovereignty and national security, and maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” Tsai said.