Taiwan will not bow to pressure from Beijing and it will keep bolstering its defenses, its president said Sunday, a day after her Chinese counterpart vowed to bring about a peaceful "reunification" with the democratic island.
Speaking at a rally to celebrate Taiwan's National Day, President Tsai Ing-wen said her government would not "act rashly," but "there should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure," she said.
She said she hoped for an easing of tensions across the Taiwan Strait.
Her speech, delivered outside the presidential office in central Taipei, was driven home by a rare show of Taiwan's defense capabilities in a parade — involving a variety of weapons, including armored vehicles, fighter jets and helicopters.
"Taiwan independence separatism is the biggest obstacle to achieving the reunification of the motherland and the most serious hidden danger to national rejuvenation," he said on the anniversary of the revolution that overthrew the last imperial dynasty in 1911.
Beijing views Taiwan as an illegitimate breakaway province that is part of its territory. When the communists won their civil war against the nationalists in 1949, the nationalists set up a rival government in Taipei, which has been self-ruled since then.
Xi's comments were greeted with an angry reaction from Taipei, which said only Taiwanese people can decide their futures. It came as repeated Chinese incursions into Taiwan's air defense identification zone have significantly picked up in recent weeks.
Th incursions prompted criticism from the State Department, which accused China of "provocative military activity" toward Taiwan last week. Spokesperson Ned Price said that China's actions were "destabilizing"and that they risked miscalculations and undermined peace and stability in the region.
Tsai said Sunday that Taiwan's situation is "more complex and fluid than at any other point in the past 72 years" and that China's routine military presence in Taiwan's air defense zone has seriously affected national security and aviation safety.
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"We will continue to bolster our national defense and demonstrate our determination to defend ourselves in order to ensure that nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us," she said. "This is because the path that China has laid out offers neither a free and democratic way of life for Taiwan, nor sovereignty for our 23 million people."
Tsai added that the island will do all it can to prevent the status quo with China from being "unilaterally altered."
Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, denounced Tsai's speech, telling the state-run news agency Xinhua that it incited confrontation and distorted facts.
"Taiwan is part of China. Although the two sides of the strait have not yet been completely reunified since 1949, the fact that the mainland and Taiwan belong to the same China has never changed and cannot be changed. China's sovereignty and territories have never been divided and will never be allowed to be divided," he said.
"Realizing the complete reunification of the motherland is the common aspiration of the Chinese people at home and abroad and the common will of the Chinese nation. Taiwan is the treasure island of the motherland," he said.