Tsai warns China against altering status quo

TAIPEI (CNA) – In view of China’s increased saber-rattling in relations with Taiwan, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday issued a stern protest against Beijing, warning it against altering the status quo across the Taiwan Strait.

“China’s move is not only a unilateral change in the cross-strait status quo, it is also a provocation to peace in the region,” Tsai said while giving a speech at a ceremony in which military cadres were promoted.

Amid the fast-changing international climate and multiple challenges facing national security, the military will assume a much more important role in maintaining regional peace, safeguarding sovereignty and upholding the people’s well-being as well as the values of democracy and freedom, she stressed.

“The military is firmly determined to defend the country’s democracy, sovereignty, and security,” she reiterated, vowing that “we will never give even an inch of territory.” Tsai’s remarks came after Taiwan’s Air Force scrambled five fighter jets Sunday to intercept two Chinese J-11 fighter planes that crossed the median line of the strait at about 11 a.m.

It is understood that the Chinese military aircraft were 185 kilometers away from Taiwan proper when they finally heeded warnings and turned around.

Later Monday, Tsai underlined on her Facebook page that she has ordered the Air Force to immediately expel any intentionally intruding Chinese aircraft.

“As an important member in the region, Taiwan will not provoke or make trouble and will do its utmost to maintain security and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” she stressed.

According to a source at the Presidential Office, Tsai also convened a meeting with National Security Council (NSC) Secretary-General David Lee (李大維) and Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa (嚴德發) Monday, where she was briefed on the military response to the incident.

Tsai was quoted as demanding during the meeting that “the Taiwan military must always respond immediately to incursions by Chinese military jet fighters across the median line of the strait.” Also, Monday, Mainland Affairs Affairs (MAC) Minister Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) said during a radio interview that the government has implemented a comprehensive strategy to deal with China.

Upon learning of the intrusion by Chinese military jets into Taiwan’s air space Sunday, the president immediately called a meeting with her national security team and activated contingency measures to deal with the situation, Chen said, noting that this forms part of the government’s strategy.

Since Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) reiterated in January the “one country, two systems” model for unification with Taiwan and said Beijing would use force if necessary, China has stepped up its intimidation of Taiwan, he noted.

On Sunday, the MAC also issued a statement strongly condemning China’s intimidation. It also blasted Beijing for its two-pronged hard-soft strategy to push for Taiwan’s unification with China through its “one country, two systems” formula, which it characterized as posing a huge threat to Taiwan’s safety and regional peace.

By Flor Wang and Wen Kui-hsiang