Taiwan’s president invoked an armed conflict in 1958 as an example of the island’s resolve to defend itself as she met Tuesday with more foreign visitors amid the highest tensions with China in decades.
U.S. policy researchers and Japanese lawmakers were the latest visiting delegations, just weeks after China reacted to a visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with large-scale military exercises that included firing missiles over the island and sending ships across the midline of the Taiwan Strait.
China claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own territory, to be taken by force if necessary, and sees high-level foreign visits to the island as interference in its affairs and de facto recognition of Taiwanese sovereignty.
Speaking to the American policy researchers from Stanford University’s Hoover Institution think tank, President Tsai Ing-wen referred to the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1958, a conflict in which the Chinese military conducted prolonged shelling of Taiwan’s outlying Kinmen and Matsu islands.
Tsai said the military and civilians worked together then to safeguard Taiwan.
"That battle to protect our homeland showed the world that no threat of any kind could shake the Taiwanese people’s resolve to defend their nation, not in the past, not now and not in the future," she said. "We, too, will show the world that the people of Taiwan have both the resolve and the confidence to safeguard peace, security, freedom and prosperity for ourselves."
Tsai later said to the Japanese lawmakers that aggression against Taiwan would have a major impact on the entire Indo-Pacific region.
Leading the Japanese delegation was Keiji Furuya, an ultra-conservative who heads a Japan-Taiwan parliamentarians group.
Furuya criticized China’s recent military exercises in a speech ahead of his meeting with Tsai.
"China’s actions are unacceptable toward the Japanese and Taiwanese people who have shared values in democracy freedoms, rule of law and human rights. We oppose this type of threat from China," he said.
Furuya also said "what is most important is for Taiwan to cooperate closely with the international community with Japan and the U.S. at the centre to completely suppress China’s attempts to change the status quo."
In Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that Furuya’s visit "grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs … and sends a seriously wrong signal to the `Taiwan independence’ separatist forces. China strongly deplores this egregious move and will take resolute and strong measures to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity."
On Monday, Tsai met with the Indiana state governor, who came to discuss business and academic cooperation with Taiwanese institutions on the issue of semiconductors, an industry in which Taiwan dominates globally.
A delegation of former Japanese defence officials and a U.S. congressional delegation that followed Pelosi have also visited Taiwan recently.
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