Amid heightened tensions across the Taiwan Strait, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday said in comments aimed at Beijing that war is “absolutely not an option” for resolving the dispute over Taiwan.
“I want to make clear to the Beijing authorities that armed confrontation is absolutely not an option for our two sides,” Tsai said in a speech marking Taiwan’s National Day.
Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) rejects the one-China principle and considers Taiwan an independent state, although Tsai has never formally declared independence, a move that could spark Chinese military action. But for her independence-leaning views, Beijing severed official contacts with Taiwan when she was elected president in 2016.
Tsai called for China to respect Taiwan’s “sovereignty” to resume contact. “Only by respecting the commitment of the Taiwanese people to our sovereignty, democracy, and freedom can there be a foundation for resuming constructive interaction across the Taiwan Strait,” she said.
While warning against war, Tsai also spoke of Taiwan’s efforts to increase its military spending and domestic weapon production. “As part of this effort, we are ramping up the mass production of precision missiles and high-performance naval vessels,” she said.
The US is looking to provide more weapons to Taiwan, and senators are working on legislation that would give the island $6.5 billion in military aid over the next five years. Tsai said Taiwan is working to “acquire various small, highly mobile precision weapons that will help us develop comprehensive asymmetric warfare capabilities, ensuring that Taiwan is fully prepared to respond to external military threats.”
Tensions spiked in the region as a result of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) visiting Taiwan. Pelosi’s visit sparked the largest-ever Chinese military exercises around Taiwan, and Beijing has kept up the pressure by regularly flying planes across the median line, an informal barrier that separates the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.
While done in the name of deterrence, increased US support for Taiwan will make a conflict over the island more likely, as Chinese officials have explicitly warned.