China warns Taiwan’s new president against independence

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China warns Taiwan’s new leader against seeking independence, saying peace would be “impossible” if she attempts to move away from the mainland.

“If independence is pursued, it will be impossible to have peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits,” China’s Taiwan Affairs office said in a statement on Friday. 

The warning came hours after Tsai Ing-wen was sworn in as the self-ruled island’s president after her pro-independence party won the January elections.

In her inauguration speech, Tsai called on mainland China to drop the “baggage of history” and engage in “positive dialog.”

Tsai, who is Taiwan’s first female president, told a jubilant crowd at the presidential palace in Taipei that her government would be a “staunch guardian of peace” in its relationship with Beijing.

“Cross-Strait relations have become an integral part of building regional peace and collective security,” she said.

“The two governing parties across the strait must set aside the baggage of history, and engage in positive dialogue, for the benefit of the people on both sides,” she added.

Tsai took office after eight years under China-friendly president Ma Ying-jeou. Ma and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping held a historic meeting in Singapore last November.

China and Taiwan are physically separated by the Taiwan Strait in the west Pacific Ocean.

They split politically following the 1927-1950 Chinese Civil War and there have been no formal cross-strait diplomatic relations ever since.

China regards Taiwan as part of its territory, but the island considers Beijing as a threat, an attitude which has been invigorated since the pro-independence party’s electoral victory.

Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won presidential and legislative elections in January.

After the victory, Beijing warned Taiwan against any independence activities and said it was willing to strengthen contact with any political party or social group that “agrees that the two sides of the (Taiwan) Strait belong to one China.”

In her speech, Tsai referred to East China Sea and South China Sea, where China and its neighbors are involved in territorial disputes.

“We propose setting aside disputes so as to enable joint development,” she said.

She also stressed that Taiwan should end its dependency on a “single market” without mentioning China by name.

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