Taiwan’s New President Sworn In, Calling on China to Stop Intimidation

Taiwan's new President William Lai urged China to "stop threatening Taiwan" during his inauguration speech. He also said peace is the only way to move forward, and Beijing should respect the will of the Taiwanese people. NTD's Taiwan correspondent Chi-Ling Chang was there reporting from Taipei.

TAIPEI—Taiwan’s new president has been sworn into office, calling on China to stop its military and political intimidations in a speech unlikely to deter the communist regime’s ambition to seize control of the self-ruling island.

In his 30-minute inaugural speech on May 20, Lai Ching-te, from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said that the Republic of China (ROC), which is Taiwan’s official name, is a “sovereign and independent country.” He added that the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which is China’s official name, and the ROC “are not subordinate to each other.”

“I also want to call on China to cease their political and military intimidations against Taiwan, and share with Taiwan the global responsibility of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, as well as the greater region, and to ensure the world is free from the fear of war,” Mr. Lai said.

Mr. Lai said his administration aims to “further entrench Taiwan’s democracy” and “maintain peace in the Indo-Pacific.”

“I have always believed that if the leader of a country puts people’s welfare above all, then peace in the Taiwan Strait, mutual benefits, and prosperous coexistence would be common goals,” he added. “I hope that China will face the reality of the Republic of China’s existence.”

Mr. Lai won January’s presidential election by a margin of about seven percentage points over second-place Hou Yu-ih, a candidate of the Kuomintang Party (KMT). His victory gave the DPP an unprecedented third consecutive term, after eight years with Tsai Ing-wen at the helm.

The DPP’s win is considered a setback for the CCP, which has traditionally favored KMT political candidates due to their friendly view of the communist neighbor. In contrast, the Chinese regime has labeled Mr. Lai as a “troublemaker” and “separatist.”

The CCP often slaps the “separatist” label on any Taiwanese who defends the island’s sovereignty and rejects the communist regime’s territorial claim over the island. China’s communist regime is preparing its military to seize Taiwan, even though the island is a de facto independent nation with its own military, constitution, and currency.

Mr. Lai reminded Taiwanese people that they shouldn’t harbor any delusions about China.

“So long as China refuses to renounce the use of force against Taiwan, all of us in Taiwan ought to understand that even if we accept the entirety of China’s position and give up our sovereignty, China’s ambition to annex Taiwan will not simply disappear,” he said.

Strengthening Democratic Resilience

As for international affairs, Mr. Lai said he will work with “other democratic nations to form a democratic community,” working together on issues such as combatting disinformation and strengthening democratic resilience.

China’s efforts to influence Taiwan’s elections have been well-documented, with tactics including promoting disinformation via social media platforms and using financial incentives to sway Taiwanese voters.

A declassified U.S. intelligence report has shown that China interfered in the U.S. 2022 midterm elections, and there are increasing concerns that the CCP will try to influence the outcome of the November elections.

Before his speech, Mr. Lai accepted congratulations from about 200 foreign politicians and delegates at Taiwan’s Presidential Office on Monday. The visiting dignitaries included those from the nations that currently maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan, as well as those from Japan, Australia, Canada, the United States, and several European nations.

Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and former top White House economic aide Brian Deese were among a U.S. bipartisan delegation that met with Mr. Lai on Monday. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also made the trip to Taiwan to congratulate Mr. Lai.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement congratulating Mr. Lai, while applauding Ms. Tsai for “strengthening ties between the United States and Taiwan over the past eight years.”

“We look forward to working with President Lai and across Taiwan’s political spectrum to advance our shared interests and values, deepen our longstanding unofficial relationship, and maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” Mr. Blinken stated.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he looked forward to “working with the Lai Administration to continue strengthening the U.S.-Taiwan relationship through expanding our economic, security, and people-to-people ties,” according to a statement.

The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), a global coalition of lawmakers, issued a statement on X (formerly Twitter), to congratulate Mr. Lai for his inauguration.

‘Trusted Industry Sectors’

Mr. Lai also spoke about the importance of Taiwan’s tech industries to the world.

“Taiwan has already mastered advanced semiconductor manufacturing, and we stand at the center of the AI revolution,” he said. “We are a key player in supply chains for global democracies.”

Taiwan produces about 90 percent of the world’s most advanced semiconductors, which are tiny chips that power everything from computers, smartphones, to missile systems. As a result, China’s ambition to seize Taiwan is also driven in part by the goal of taking control of the island’s semiconductor sector.

Under his administration, Mr. Lai said he aims to develop “five trusted industry sectors”—semiconductors, AI, military, security and surveillance, and next-generation communications.

Before Monday’s inauguration, China was already taking steps to put pressure on Mr. Lai.

China sailed seven warships in waters near the island and had six Chinese military planes crossing the island’s air defense identification zone, in the 24 hours before 6 a.m. local time on May 20, according to Taiwan’s defense ministry.

Earlier this month, Taiwan’s National Security Bureau reported there was an increase in the number of daily cyberattacks originating from the Chinese side in recent months, according to the island’s government-run Central News Agency. There were 2.5 million daily cyberattacks in recent months, up from 1 million in January, according to the outlet, and the attacks mainly targeted Taiwans’ government websites.

Last week, China sanctioned five Taiwanese political commentators, a move that drew a rebuke from the Taiwan Foreign Correspondents Club (TFCC).

“The sanctions represent an affront to free speech and the rights of journalists to operate without intimidation or reprisal,” TFCC said in a statement. “We urge the Chinese authorities to uphold the principles of freedom of speech and to refrain from actions that undermine journalistic independence and integrity.”

On Monday, China’s commerce ministry announced sanctions against three U.S. companies—Boeing’s Defense, Space & Security unit, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, and General Dynamics Land Systems—for arms sales to Taiwan.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) also took to X to congratulate Mr. Lai and Hsaio Bi-Khim, who is Taiwan’s new vice president. Ms. Hsiao previously served as Taiwan’s top representative in the United States during the Tsai administration.

“Amid ongoing threats from Communist China, we must continue to support Taiwan as a free & independent nation,” Ms. Blackburn wrote.

From The Epoch Times

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