'War is not an option', Taiwan president says amid China tensions
TAIPEI (Reuters) -Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen vowed on Saturday to maintain the status quo of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait amid high tensions with China, which has stepped up military pressure on the democratically governed island.
Taiwan will not provoke and will not bow to Chinese pressure, Tsai said in a speech in the presidential office in Taipei marking the seventh anniversary of her governance.
China, which considers Taiwan as its own and threatens to bring the island under its control if necessary, has stepped up military and diplomatic pressure to force the island to accept Chinese sovereignty since Tsai took office in 2016.
Beijing has rebuffed calls for talks from Tsai, regarding her to be a separatist. Tsai has repeatedly vowed to defend Taiwan's freedom and democracy.
"War is not an option. Neither side can unilaterally change the status quo with non-peaceful means," Tsai said. "Maintaining the status quo of peace and stability is the consensus for both the world and Taiwan."
"Although Taiwan is surrounded by risks, it is by no means a risk maker. We are a responsible risk manager and Taiwan will stand together with democratic countries and communities around the world to jointly defuse the risks," she said.
Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) rich nations agreed they were seeking a peaceful resolution to issues on Taiwan, the host of the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, said on Friday.
Tsai said Taiwan officials are in discussions with U.S. President Joe Biden's administration on sending $500 million worth of weapons aid to Taiwan, adding that the aid was meant to address deliveries of weapons delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She stressed the global importance of Taiwan's supply chain, which produces most of the world's advanced semiconductor chips, and vowed to keep the most advanced chip technologies and research and development centres in Taiwan.
Taiwan is gearing up for a key presidential election in mid-January, with China tensions set to top the campaign agenda.
Representing Taiwan's main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party for the key vote in mid-January, New Taipei City mayor Hou Yu-ih said on Saturday that Taiwan faces a choice between "peace and war" under Tsai's rule and he vowed to keep regional stability through unspecified "dialogue and exchanges".
"The fears for war will never drive away the hope for peace," Hou said at an event in Taipei to kick off his election campaign, vowing to defend the Republic of China, Taiwan's official name.
Hou is running against Taiwan Vice President William Lai from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
The KMT, which favours close ties with China, has framed the 2024 vote as a choice between war and peace.
In the presidential office when asked about the opposition's stance on the elections, Tsai said maintaining peace should be the consensus for all political parties in Taiwan, and that one should not "sell the fears of war for elections gains."
(Reporting by Yimou Lee; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and William Mallard)