Taiwan’s vice president also reiterated a willingness to talk to China as he made a brief stop in New York City.
Taiwan’s vice president has declared that the self-governing island will not back down in the face of threats from the authorities after China pledged to take “strong and decisive measures” following its standoff with the United States.
William Lai made the comments at a lunch with his supporters in New York City on Sunday.
Lai, who is also the front-runner to become Taiwan’s next president in January’s election, was in the US on an official transit stop on his way to Paraguay for the inauguration of its new president. Paraguay is one of only 13 countries that maintain formal relations with the island claimed by China.
Taiwan and the US both say the stops, including one in San Francisco on the way home, are routine, but China has criticized them and called Lai a separatist “troublemaker”.
Lai told supporters that “if Taiwan is safe, the world is safe, if the Taiwan Strait is peaceful, the world is peaceful”, according to Taiwan’s presidential office.
“No matter how great the threat of authoritarianism in Taiwan, we are absolutely not afraid or afraid, we will uphold the values of democracy and freedom,” he said.
China considers Taiwan a top diplomatic matter and the issue is a constant source of friction between Beijing and Washington, which is the island’s most important international backer and arms supplier.
China has a particular dislike for Lai, who once described himself as a “practical worker for Taiwan independence”, a red line for Beijing that has never ruled out the use of force to bring down the island under its control.
Lai, who has vowed to maintain peace and the status quo, reiterated in New York that on the basic principles of dignity and equality he is “very willing” to talk to China and seek peace and stability.
But Lai said he would defend Taiwan’s sovereignty, that only Taiwanese people can decide their future and that the Republic of China – Taiwan’s formal name – and the People’s Republic of China “are not subordinate to each other”.
Lai’s speech was attended by Ingrid Larson, managing director of the American Institute in Taiwan, a nonprofit run by the US government that maintains unofficial ties to Taiwan.
Both Taipei and Washington want the US sanctions to be low, and have called on China not to take any provocative action in response.
However, Taiwanese officials say China is likely to launch military exercises this week near Taiwan, using Lai’s stops in the US as a pretext to scare voters before next year’s election and make them “fear of war”.
On Monday, China’s People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command, which has responsibility for the area around Taiwan, posted photos on its WeChat account of troops practicing an invasion on a beach, although the location was not given. , time or specific reference to Taiwan.
It said the soldiers guided the armored vehicles “to the enemy’s front-line positions and launched a fierce attack”.
China made war games around Taiwan in April after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen returned from California where he met US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy while also traveling on his way home from Central America.