Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen says island’s future must be decided by its people | Politics News

Self-ruled Taiwan, claimed by Beijing, will go to the polls later this month to elect a new president.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has stressed that the self-ruled island’s future and its relations with Beijing must be decided by its people after China’s leader Xi Jinping said “reunification” was inevitable.

Beijing claims Taiwan as its own and has not ruled out using force to achieve its goal.

He has been increasing political and military pressure on the island since Tsai was first elected in 2016 and has intensified his campaign in the weeks leading up to the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections on January 13.

In an upbeat New Year’s Eve speech, Xi took a stronger-than-usual tone on the island, promising the nation that China would “surely be reunified.”

Asked about Xi’s speech at a New Year’s news conference at the presidential office in Taipei, Tsai stressed that the island was a democracy and it was its people who decided its future.

“This requires the joint will of the people of Taiwan to make a decision. After all, we are a democratic country,” he said, calling on Beijing to respect the election result and stressing that it was the responsibility of both sides to maintain peace and stability in the strait that separates them.

Earlier on Monday, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it had detected four Chinese military aircraft and four Chinese navy vessels near the island. It said one of the planes had entered its air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the southwest.

Beijing views Tsai and Vice President William Lai Ching-te, the front-runner for the job, as “separatists” and has rejected offers of dialogue.

Re-elected in a landslide in 2020, Tsai has strengthened relations with the United States, Taiwan’s most important ally, and has intensified efforts to modernize the island’s military.

“Everyone’s houses have locks, which is not to provoke the neighbors next door, but to be safer. The same goes for the field gates. The people of Taiwan want peace, but we want peace with respect,” he stated.

Tsai and Lai are from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which has dominated the island’s politics in recent years, leaving the China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) in opposition.

Analysts told Al Jazeera last month that Beijing was waging a multi-pronged campaign to ensure that the DPP is not re-elected and that the people of Taiwan make what it considers the “right decision.”

In his New Year’s speech, Xi reiterated his goal of unifying China and Taiwan.

“Compatriots on both sides of the [Taiwan] The Straits must be united by a common sense of purpose to share the glory of national rejuvenation,” he said.

Tsai cannot run for another term because she has already served two terms. She will resign in May when the next president is sworn in.

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