TAOYUAN, Taiwan, April 7 (Reuters) – Taiwan will not be stopped from engaging with the world and will not give in to pressure, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Friday as she arrived back from a trip to Central America and United States, where she met U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
China, which claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, reacted with anger to the McCarthy meeting having demanded it not take place, though so far has held off ratcheting up military tensions to show its displeasure.
Speaking after stepping off her flight, Tsai said her enthusiastic welcome overseas was a powerful message.
“We showed the international community that in the face of pressure and threats Taiwan will be even more united and will absolutely not yield to suppression, nor due to obstructions stop exchanges with the world,” she said at Taiwan’s main international airport at Taoyuan outside of Taipei.
“Taiwan’s determination to protect democracy and freedom has been supported by our democratic partners, and it has also strengthened our friendship with our democratic partners.”
China staged war games around Taiwan last August following a visit to Taipei by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
While Taiwan has reported a Chinese aircraft carrier group far off its eastern coast, it has not reported any other unusual military movements.
Late on Friday, the Maritime Safety Administration of China’s Fujian province, which lies opposite Taiwan, announced live fire drills beginning Saturday in two small areas close to the Chinese coast around Fuzhou city and Pingtan island, warning ships not to enter.
Fuzhou and Pingtan are both near the Taiwan-controlled Matsu islands. The announcement made no mention of Tsai’s U.S. visit, and China frequently stages exercises along the Fujian coast.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, in a statement released shortly after Tsai’s flight landed, reiterated its opposition to her U.S. trip, technically billed as a “transit” though in reality where her most important meetings took place.
“The so-called ‘transit’ is just an excuse, but it is actually a provocation, relying on the United States to seek independence,” it said.
However, the statement did not announce any specific retaliatory steps.
But underscoring the sensitivity of Tsai’s return, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry denied, around 30 minutes before touchdown, a Taiwanese media report that her flight had been subjected to “unknown interference”, saying this was not true.
It did say, though, that a special military task force was deployed to “control the whole process”, using naval and air forces to stand guard.
Tsai travelled on an A350 specially chartered from Taiwan’s China Airlines.
Tsai and her government reject China’s sovereignty claims, saying only Taiwan’s people can decide their future. She has repeatedly offered talks with China but been rebuffed, with Beijing viewing her as a separatist.
China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.
Source : Reuters