Taiwan says war with China ‘absolutely’ not an option, but bolstering defences

TAIPEI, Oct 10 (Reuters) – A war between Taiwan and China is “absolutely not an option,” Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said on Monday, as she reiterated her willingness to talk with Beijing and also pledged to defend the island strengthen, including with precision missiles.

China again dismissed its latest overture, saying the island is an inseparable part of its territory.

Democratic Taiwan, which China claims as its own, has come under increasing military and political pressure from Beijing, particularly after Chinese war games in early August after a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei.

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Any conflict over Taiwan could draw in the United States, Japan, and perhaps much of the world, shaking the global economy, especially given Taiwan’s dominant position as a maker of semiconductors used in everything from smartphones and tablets to fighter jets.

Tsai said it was “regrettable” that China had escalated its intimidation and threatened cross-strait and regional peace and stability in her National Day speech outside the president’s office under a gray sky.

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China should not believe that there is room for compromise in Taiwan’s people’s commitment to democracy and freedom, she said.

“I want to make it clear to the Beijing authorities that armed confrontation is absolutely not an option for either of our sides. Only by respecting the Taiwanese people’s commitment to our sovereignty, democracy and freedom can there be a basis for resuming constructive cross-strait cooperation.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said in Beijing that Taiwan is part of China, “has no president and is not an independent country”.

“The root cause of the current cross-strait tensions lies in the Democratic Progressive Party’s stubborn insistence on Taiwan’s independence and secession,” she said, referring to Taiwan’s ruling party. “We are willing to create a broad space for peaceful reunification, but we will never leave space for Taiwan’s independence and secessionist activities.”

China has called Tsai – re-elected by a landslide in 2020 with a promise to stand against Beijing – a separatist and has refused to speak to her.

Tsai’s speech comes less than a week before the opening of the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s congress in Beijing, where it is widely expected that President Xi Jinping will win an unprecedented third five-year term.

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An official familiar with Tsai’s thinking told reporters, on condition of anonymity, that the president wanted to “make her position clear” to the world and Beijing.

“Standing firm on the status quo of cross-strait peace and stability is the main axis of Tsai’s comments on cross-strait relations this year,” the official said, adding that it is the world’s expectation and responsibility for both Taipei and Beijing.

“NO ROOM FOR COMPROMISE”

Tsai said to applause her government looks forward to the gradual resumption of healthy and orderly people-to-people exchanges across the Strait after the pandemic, which would ease tensions.

But the broad consensus in Taiwan is that its sovereignty and free and democratic way of life must be defended, she added.

“We have no room for compromise on this point,” she said.

Tsai has made strengthening Taiwan’s defenses a cornerstone of her administration to provide a more credible deterrent to China, which is ramping up an ambitious modernization program of its own military.

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Taiwan will show the world that it takes responsibility for its own defense, Tsai said.

Taiwan is ramping up mass production of precision missiles and high-performance naval vessels, and is working to acquire small, highly mobile weapons that will ensure Taiwan is fully prepared to respond to “external military threats,” she added.

Military tensions have raised concerns, particularly in the United States, about the concentration of chip manufacturing in Taiwan.

“I would like to emphasize one point to my fellow citizens and the international community, which is that the concentration of the semiconductor sector in Taiwan poses no risk,” she said.

“We will continue to maintain Taiwan’s advantages and capabilities in cutting-edge semiconductor manufacturing processes, and help streamline the global semiconductor supply chain transformation, giving our semiconductor companies an even more important global role,” she added.

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Reporting by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Martin Pollard in Beijing; Edited by Shri Navaratnam and Gerry Doyle

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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