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Taiwan’s New President Warns China

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Taiwan’s newly inaugurated President William Lai has called on China to stop threatening the island and accept the existence of its democracy.

He urged Beijing to replace confrontation with dialogue, shortly after being sworn in on Monday.

He also said Taiwan would never back down in the face of intimidation from China, which has long claimed the island as its own.

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China responded by saying, “Taiwan independence is a dead end”.

“Regardless of the pretext or the banner under which it is pursued, the push for Taiwan independence is destined to fail,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at the daily press briefing on Monday afternoon.

Beijing dislikes Mr Lai and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which they see as pro-independence. And it has ramped up military incursions around Taiwan’s waters and airspace since his election win in January.

Such military incursions by China have become a routine affair in the past few years, triggering fears of conflict. In his speech, Mr Lai called this the “greatest strategic challenge to global peace and stability”.

But the 64-year-old also stuck closely to the formula used by his predecessor president Tsai Ing-wen, whose legacy will be defined by her cautious but steady handling of Beijing.

Mr Lai, a doctor turned politician, won a three-way presidential race in January, securing an unprecedented third term for his. He had served as Ms Tsai’s vice-president since 2020, and before that as her premier. In his younger days, he was known to be a more radical politician who openly called for Taiwanese independence, much to Beijing’s ire. It labelled him a “troublemaker” ahead of the polls, and Chinese state media even suggested he should be prosecuted for secession.

The Chinese government is yet to issue a statement on Mr Lai’s inauguration. However, the Chinese embassy in the UK held a press briefing over the weekend, asking the UK government to not endorse it.

And earlier last week, a spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office warned that the island’s new leader “must seriously” consider the question of whether he wants peaceful development or confrontation.

And just as Mr Lai was being sworn in, China’s Commerce Ministry announced sanctions against several US companies “involved in arms sales to Taiwan”.

BBC

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