Taiwan’s president called Tuesday for democratic countries to combat China’s regional expansionism, saying the alliance would safeguard “freedom… human rights and democracy”.
Although Tsai Ing-wen did not mention China by name, there was no mistaking who she was referring to in a speech Tuesday to an Asia-Pacific security forum in Taipei.
She said Taiwan — which China regards as its own territory and has vowed to one day seize — was at the forefront of “defending democracy from authoritarian aggression”.
Tsai regards Taiwan as a de facto sovereign nation, but has resisted any formal declaration of independence — a move Beijing has long warned could spark a war.
China has upped the pressure on Taiwan since Tsai came to power in 2016, as she refuses to acknowledge its idea that the island is part of “one China”.
She did not name Beijing, but cited military movements in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait as well as “coercive diplomacy used against countries and corporations”.
“It is time for like-minded countries, and democratic friends… to maintain a strategic order that deters unilateral aggressive actions,” Tsai said, stressing that one country alone could maintain regional peace and security.
“This alliance will safeguard the values we cherish most: freedom, safety, human rights and democracy,” she said.
She also called for economic integration to avoid seeking “short-term solutions with those who do not share our values and beliefs”.
Last month China’s military fired missiles into the disputed South China Sea — parts of which are also claimed by Taiwan and a string of other countries.
Chinese jets also buzzed Taiwan almost daily in June and made a brief incursion across the median line of the Taiwan Strait in early August, as the US health chief was making his country’s highest-level visit to Taiwan since 1979.
China bristles at any move by foreign governments to recognise or conduct official exchanges with Taipei, and was infuriated by the visit — as well as one by the Czech Republic’s senate president last week.
Tsai won a landslide re-election in January in what was seen as a strong rebuke to Beijing’s strong-arm tactics.