Taiwan president calls for 'meaningful dialogue' with China
By Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard
TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan wants to have a "meaningful dialogue" with China on an equal footing, President Tsai Ing-wen said Saturday, extending an olive branch with Beijing, which claims the island as sovereign Chinese territory, amid increasing military tension.
Democratic Taiwan has come under increasing pressure from Beijing, which has been ramping up air force activities near the island in recent weeks, including crossing the sensitive strait-center line that normally serves as an unofficial buffer zone.
China reacts to "collusion" between Washington and Taipei, angry at the US 'growing support for the self-governing island. Beijing sees this as a precursor for Taiwan, which declares formal independence, a red line for China.
During the National Day celebrations, Tsai described the situation on the Taiwan Strait as "quite tense." This, along with disputes in the South China Sea, a border dispute between China and India, and China's actions in Hong Kong, showed that democracy and peace were facing major challenges in the region, she said.
If Beijing can heed Taiwan's voice and jointly promote reconciliation and peaceful dialogue, regional tensions can certainly be resolved, she added.
"As long as the Beijing authorities stand ready to resolve differences and improve cross-strait relations while maintaining parity and dignity, we stand ready to work together to facilitate meaningful dialogue," said Tsai.
There was no immediate reaction from China, which switched off a formal discussion mechanism after taking office for the first time in 2016.
Tsai said she is determined to maintain cross-strait stability, but that is the responsibility of both sides.
Still, it has made strengthening the Taiwanese armed forces a priority, saying it will continue to do so and uphold the principle of neither seeking nor fearing war.
"Our commitment to our sovereignty and our democratic values will not change, but we will also maintain strategic flexibility and respond to changes," she said without going into detail.
The United States has urged Taiwan to modernize its military so that it becomes a "porcupine" difficult for China to attack. Washington, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic relations with Taipei, despite being the strongest global backer.
(Reporting by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard; Editing by William Mallard)
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