New Taiwanese President Calls for Peace with China

( – Taiwan’s new President Lai Ching-te tried to thread the political needle with mainland China during his inauguration speech on May 20th, advocating for peace but insisting that China stop its rumblings about invading Taiwan.

China considers Taiwan part of the country of China, while the island Taiwan sees itself as an independent and democratic nation. There is a constant uneasy tension between the political bodies, with China frequently giving signals that some interpret as threats to subjugate Taiwan to Beijing.

Speaking to a crowd in Taipei, Lai said the region must remain peaceful, but that China must stop “intimidating” Taiwan with political rhetoric and military aggression. The world must be reassured that war is not about to erupt, he said, and that is part of China’s “global responsibility.”

Taiwan has complained in recent months about the number of Chinese military ships in the Taiwan Strait, some of which Taiwan said have strayed inside its own waters and harassed nearby islands and shoals.

China responded predictably, stating that Lai was sending “dangerous signals” that were going to undermine peace efforts around the Taiwan Strait. Since China does not recognize Taiwan’s independence, it does not consider the movement of its ships to be breaking any rules. Put another way, China does not recognize the existence of “Taiwanese waters.”

The Tawain Affairs Office in mainland China said the situation in the Strait was “complicated and grim.” Moreover, China said the Taiwanese independence effort itself would make it impossible to have peace in the region and its waterways. Standing firm, the office said, “The two sides belong to the same China.”

Taiwan’s Lai seemed to be trying to strike a balance between cordiality and strength with regard to China. He said Taiwan will not back down its commitments to “democracy and freedom,” and that peace with China was a necessary precondition for stability and harmony in the future.

Before he became president, Lai served as vice president under Tsai Ing-wen. He told his supporters that the Taiwanese people should not have any “illusions” about how easy peace will be to achieve and that Taiwan must stay ready to defend itself.

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