Taiwan president says island not intimidated by Chinese military drills

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen speaks before signing up for Democratic Progressive Party's 2020 presidential candidate nomination in Taipei March 21, 2019. — Reuters pic
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen speaks before signing up for Democratic Progressive Party's 2020 presidential candidate nomination in Taipei March 21, 2019. — Reuters pic

TAIPEI, April 16 — Taiwan is not intimidated by China's military drills this week, President Tsai Ing-wen said today, after the latest Chinese military manoeuvres were denounced by a senior US official as “coercion” and a threat to stability in the region.

China's People's Liberation Army said its warships, bombers and reconnaissance aircraft had conducted “necessary drills” around Taiwan yesterday, though it described them as routine.

“We will not make any compromise on our territory for even one inch. We always hold on tight to our democracy and freedom,” Tsai told reporters at an event to mark Taiwan-US ties in Taipei, adding US arm sales to Taiwan would help reinforce the capability of Taiwan's Air Force.

Tsai was speaking at a forum co-hosted by Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to mark the 40th anniversary of Taiwan-US ties, following Washington's decision to ditch formal recognition of Taiwan in favour of China in 1979.

Taiwan scrambled jets and ships to monitor the Chinese forces yesterday, its defence ministry said, accusing Beijing of “trying to change the status quo of the Taiwan Strait.”

China has repeatedly carried out what it calls “island encirclement patrols” in the past few years.

A delegation led by former US speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, is in Taipei to mark 40 years since the signing of the Taiwan Relations Act, which governs US-Taiwan relations, and to reaffirm Washington's commitment.

Ryan said the United States considers any military threat to Taiwan a concern and urged China to stop, saying the moves were counterproductive.

The United States has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help provide the island with the means to defend itself and is its main source of arms.

China has stepped up pressure on Taiwan. Beijing suspects Taiwan's president is pushing for the island's formal independence, a red line for China which has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.

Tsai says she wants to maintain the status quo with China but will defend Taiwan's security and democracy.

The visit by US officials comes just weeks after Tsai said the United States was responding positively to Taipei's requests for new arms sales to bolster its defences in the face of growing pressure from China.

Last month, Washington sent Navy and Coast Guard ships through the narrow strait separating the island from the mainland, part of an increase in the frequency of US movement through the strategic waterway to show support for Taipei. — Reuters

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