China, however, has not given up its claim to Taiwan. Beijing has threatened to attack if Taiwan declares formal independence, or if it decides that peaceful annexation options have disappeared.
An Fengshan, a spokesman for the mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said this week that Taiwan’s “reunification” with China — Taiwan has never been part of the People’s Republic — was inevitable because of the growing cross-strait military imbalance.
On Friday, Ms. Tsai reiterated her pledge to increase Taiwan’s military spending and military development capabilities in the face of the threat from Beijing. She also said at the news conference that where necessary, and possible, Taiwan would seek military cooperation with other countries.
In recent years, the United States has been alone in its willingness to sell military hardware to Taiwan in the face of Chinese pressure. This summer, President Trump approved a relatively small $1.4 billion arms package to Taiwan.
China cut off official communication channels with the Tsai administration last year after she declined to accede to Beijing’s demand that she accept the so-called 1992 Consensus, which posits that mainland China and Taiwan are part of “one China.”
Since then, Beijing has ratcheted up diplomatic pressure by poaching Taiwan’s few remaining diplomatic partners and blocking its observer status in international organizations, especially those under the United Nations. Taiwan, which has world’s 22nd-largest economy and a population nearly as large as Australia’s, is not a member of the United Nations.
Beijing has recently emphasized that Taiwan is the most sensitive issue in relations with Washington, where Congress has been one of the most visible international supporters of Taiwan. Last month, it passed the National Defense Authorization Act, encouraging mutual port calls by naval vessels from Taiwan and the United States. Mr. Trump signed the legislation this month.
China has not hidden its displeasure. Speaking at a Chinese Embassy event in Washington this month, Li Kexin, an embassy minister, said he had told American officials that if United States Navy vessels visited Taiwan’s southern port in Kaohsiung, China would attack the island with the aim of unification.
Ms. Tsai said on Friday that she welcomed Taiwan-friendly legislation, but emphasized that Taiwan must rely on itself for defense. This month, the Ministry of National Defense published a report in which it noted that it is focusing on strengthening its asymmetric warfare capabilities while expanding the area in which it considers Chinese invasion to be possible.
As chairwoman of the traditionally pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, Ms. Tsai has shelved that stance in favor of maintaining the status quo. She said Friday that her administration would seek to maintain regional peace and stability, while also working to improve Taiwan’s domestic and international circumstances for future generations.
“We want to enable the next generation of Taiwanese to live in a different country,” she said.
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