Taiwan is resolved to protect itself, and invaders will pay a “severe price,” President Tsai Ing-wen declared on the sixth anniversary of a clash with Chinese soldiers six decades ago.
Tensions between Taiwan and China have risen in the month after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei. China staged military games near Taiwan to protest what it regarded as increased US backing for the island, which Beijing regards as Chinese territory.
Tsai hailed the “spirit” of defending against China’s month-long assault of the Taiwan-controlled islands of Kinmen and Matsu, just off the Chinese coast, which began in late August 1958.
“This struggle defended Taiwan for us, and it also demonstrated to the rest of the world that no danger can shake the resolve of the Taiwanese people to protect their country,” Tsai said in remarks issued by her office.
“What we need to do is show the adversary that Taiwan is determined and prepared to defend the country, as well as capable of doing so,” she continued.
“A high price will be paid for invading or attempting to invade Taiwan, and the international community will firmly condemn it.”
Tsai told a delegation of senior US officials at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution earlier in the day, including Matt Pottinger, former US President Donald Trump’s deputy national security adviser, that the 1958 struggle laid the path for today’s Taiwan.
“Sixty-four years ago, on August 23, our soldiers and citizens operated in unity and preserved Taiwan, so that we have the democratic Taiwan we have today,” she added, using the Taiwanese term for the fight, which ended in a stalemate with China failing to take the islands.
Taiwan fought with US help, which delivered military weapons such as modern Sidewinder anti-aircraft missiles, giving Taiwan a technological advantage.
The Second Taiwan Strait Crisis was the last time Taiwanese forces fought on a big scale against China.
Among the US visitors was retired US Navy Admiral James O. Ellis, who said his delegation’s participation underscored the American people’s commitment to deeper cooperation.
“Consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act, part of this cooperation entails strengthening Taiwan’s capabilities for self-defense as well as the United States’ ability to deter and resist any resort to force across the Taiwan Strait,” Ellis told Tsai, referring to a US law that requires the US to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself.
The United States, which severed formal diplomatic ties with Taipei in favour of Beijing in 1979, is Taiwan’s primary source of armaments.
“As Taiwan sits on the front lines of authoritarian expansionism, we will continue to strengthen our defence autonomy, and we will also collaborate with the US on this front,” Tsai added.
China’s manoeuvres near Taiwan have put the status quo in the strait and throughout the region in jeopardy, and democratic partners should work together to “fight against meddling by authoritarian regimes,” she added.
Following that meeting, Tsai met with two Japanese lawmakers, and other foreign parliamentarians, including those from Canada and the United Kingdom, are set to come this year, resisting Chinese pressure not to travel.
Taiwan’s government claims that because the People’s Republic of China has never administered the island, the People’s Republic of China has no authority to claim it or decide its future, which can only be decided by Taiwan’s 23 million people.