BEIJING, Oct 9 (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed on Saturday to realize peaceful “reunification” with Taiwan, though did not directly mention the use of force after a week of tensions with the Chinese-claimed island that sparked international concern.
Taiwan responded shortly after by calling on Beijing to abandon its coercion, reiterating that only Taiwan’s people could decide their future.
Democratically ruled Taiwan has come under increased military and political pressure from Beijing to accept its sovereignty, but Taipei has pledged to defend their freedom.
Speaking at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Xi said the Chinese people have a “glorious tradition” of opposing separatism.
“Taiwan independence separatism is the biggest obstacle to achieving the reunification of the motherland, and the most serious hidden danger to national rejuvenation,” he said on the anniversary of the revolution that overthrew the last imperial dynasty in 1911.
Peaceful “reunification” best meets the overall interests of the Taiwanese people, but China will protect its sovereignty and unity, he added.
“No one should underestimate the Chinese people’s staunch determination, firm will, and strong ability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Xi said. “The historical task of the complete reunification of the motherland must be fulfilled, and will definitely be fulfilled.”
He struck a slightly softer than in July, his last major speech mentioning Taiwan, in which he vowed to “smash” any attempts at formal independence. In 2019, he directly threatened to use force to bring the island under Beijing’s control.
Still, the speech was poorly received in Taiwan.
The presidential office said they were a sovereign independent country, not part of the People’s Republic of China, and had clearly rejected China’s offer of “one country, two systems” to rule the island.
“The nation’s future rests in the hands of Taiwan’s people,” the office said.
In a separate statement, Taiwan’s China-policy making Mainland Affairs Council called on Beijing to “abandon its provocative steps of intrusion, harassment and destruction” and return to talks.
China’s air force mounted four straight days of incursions into Taiwan’s air defence identification zon