Amid growing military pressure from China, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen vowed on Friday that her nation would do “whatever it takes” to defend its independence and democratic governance from any external threats.
“Taiwan does not seek military confrontation. It hopes for a peaceful, stable, predictable, and mutually beneficial coexistence with its neighbors,” Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said in an address before the annual Yushan Forum in Taipei. “But Taiwan will also do whatever it takes to defend its freedom and democratic way of life.”
While Taiwan governs itself as an independent nation, China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and has increasingly described efforts to bring Taiwan under its control.
Tsai’s remarks come days after China sent a series of increasingly record-breaking military flights into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ). In a subsequent statement warning against the U.S. interceding on Taiwan’s behalf, China said Taiwan belongs to China and “China will take all necessary measures to resolutely crush all attempts at ‘Taiwan independence.’”
Tsai’s remarks on Friday echo those made earlier in the week by Foreign Minister Joseph Wu. He said, “If China is going to launch a war against Taiwan we will fight to the end, and that is our commitment.”
Responding to the mounting pressure from China earlier this week, Tsai also said, “I am warning the Beijing authorities to be sure to exercise restraint and avoid actions that could spark a fire.”
During her address Friday, Tsai also said Taiwan is seeking to strengthen ties with other countries in the Indo-Pacific region.
Tsai noted a March information-sharing agreement between the U.S. Coast Guard and Taiwan Coast Guard, as an example of the types of cooperation Taiwan is seeking with other countries. She said the agreement between the U.S. and Taiwanese Coast Guards helped preserve maritime resources and reduce illegal fishing in the region.
Reuters reported the U.S.-Taiwan Coast Guard agreement came as China has increased its fishing and sand dredging activities near Taiwan. The agreement also came shortly after China authorized its own coast guard to fire on foreign vessels in the South China Sea; another international region China has tried to assert control over. The U.S.-Taiwan Coast Guard agreement could serve as a check on Chinese maritime encroachments in the region.
In addition to the coast guard agreement with the U.S., Tsai noted Taiwan’s participation in international forums. She thanked the Japan-U.S. Summit, the G7 Summit, the E.U.-U.S. Summit and other groups for emphasizing stability in the Taiwan Strait and the surrounding region.
“Taiwan may be small in terms of territory, but it has proved that it can have a large regional presence [in the Indo-Pacific],” Tsai said. “Taiwan preserves in the face of existential threats and made itself an indispensable actor in the Indo-Pacific.”