President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday urged both sides of the Taiwan Strait to maintain peaceful relations, vowing that the Republic of China (ROC) would commit to positive exchanges with China and extending goodwill, but would not succumb to pressure or threats.
“Over the past few months, Taiwanese commonly feel that rational and calm relations kept by both sides of the Strait have slightly changed,” Tsai said when she and Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) attended a New Year’s Eve news conference at the Presidential Office Building in Taipei, talking also about their work since assuming office on May 20 last year and the direction of the government.
“Beijing has, step by step, backed onto an old track to polarize, pressure and even threaten and intimidate Taiwan,” Tsai said.
Photo: Su Fang-ho, Taipei Times
“We hope this is not Beijing’s policy and want to remind the Chinese government that such moves have hurt Taiwanese feelings and affected stability across the Taiwan Strait,” she said.
“To maintain regional peace and prosperity, we once again promise that our goodwill has not changed, but we will not yield to pressure or return to the old path of confrontation,” she added.
Beijing and Sao Tome and Principe signed a communique to resume diplomatic relations late last month after the western African nation terminated formal relations with the Republic of China, seen as an example of China’s former methods.
Tsai said that Taiwan hopes to continue to work with China for peace in response to calls from people on both sides of the strait.
“Whether cross-strait relations take a different path next year  depends on our patience, holding steady to our beliefs and how Beijing views the future of cross-strait relations. In other words, whether it is willing to accept responsibility and adopt new thinking and practices to jointly find a method of interaction between Taiwan and China and respond to the mutual desire of people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and regional neighbors for peace and development,” she said.
As long as Taiwan and China share a calm and rational mindset and allow a certain degree of flexibility, many problems can be resolved, she said.
Tsai said Taiwan faces a more uncertain international situation in the first half of the year, but assured Taiwanese that the nation has the strength it needs to deal with such challenges.
Policy changes by the administration of US president-elect Donald Trump are likely to change the international situation and Taiwan will need to face the uncertainty that follows, Tsai said.
“In the first half of next year , we will focus on dealing with changes in the international situation. The government will work to maintain peace and stability, and will actively seek out more opportunities to contribute to the international community,” she said.
Asked by reporters how her administration interprets the international view of the “one China” policy, which became a topic of debate after being discussed by Trump, Tsai said there is no need to overreact.
Tsai said she made it clear in her inaugural address that “the Republic of China is a sovereign nation and this has not changed.”
There might be numerous ideas about how to handle cross-strait relations, which Tsai said remains a challenge for Taiwanese, but she asked people to “remember the consensus that we are a sovereign nation.”
On speculation that she could meet with members of Trump’s team and US officials during her transit stops in the US on her way to Central America this month, Tsai said the plan is merely to stop over in the US.
Tsai is scheduled to depart on Saturday for a nine-day visit to the nation’s Central American allies.
The Presidential Office said that the president is to make two stopovers in the US — in Houston, Texas, and San Francisco.
During the stopovers, Tsai is scheduled to meet with Taiwanese expatriates and visit some businesses, as is customary for Taiwanese leaders transiting though the US, Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang (黃重諺) said.
The American Institute in Taiwan said the transit arrangements for Tsai were based on a long-standing US practice and were consistent with the unofficial nature of the US’ relations with Taiwan.
Additional reporting by CNA
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