World/Foreign News

New Taiwan president sworn in, calls on China to cease intimidation

On Monday, the new Taiwan President Lai Ching-te vowed to defend the island’s democracy and called on China to cease its military intimidation of the self-ruled island.

In an inauguration speech, Lai also directly addressed the threat of war following years of growing pressure from China to bring Taiwan under mainland rule.

Lai said a “glorious era of Taiwan’s democracy has arrived” and thanked citizens for “refusing to be swayed by external forces, for resolutely defending democracy”.

“In face of the many threats and attempts of infiltration from China, we must demonstrate our resolution to defend our nation and we must also raise our defence awareness and strengthen our legal framework for national security,” said Lai, 64.

China has described Lai as a “dangerous separatist” for his past comments on Taiwan’s independence — rhetoric that he has moderated in recent years.

On Monday, he said his government will “neither yield nor provoke, and (will) maintain the status quo” — a balance that preserves Taiwan’s sovereignty while not declaring formal independence.

“I also want to call on China to cease their political and military intimidation against Taiwan,” Lai said.

He urged Beijing to “share with Taiwan the global responsibility of maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait… and ensure the world is free from the fear of war”.

Lai has made repeated overtures to resume high-level communications with China, which Beijing severed in 2016 when his predecessor Tsai Ing-wen took power.

On Monday Lai said he hoped China would “choose dialogue over confrontation”.

Experts have said Lai’s overtures are likely to be rebuffed.

– US support –

Taiwan has been self-governed since 1949 when nationalists fled to the island following their defeat by communist forces in a civil war on mainland China.

For more than 70 years, China has considered Taiwan as part of its territory and has long threatened to use force to bring the island under its control.

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