China will never give up the right to use force over Taiwan, says Xi

BEIJING/TAIPEI, Oct 16 (Reuters) – It is up to the Chinese people to resolve the Taiwan issue and China will never give up the right to use force but will strive for a peaceful solution, President Xi Jinping said on Sunday at the opening of a major party meeting.

Taiwan, which China considers its own territory, responded that it will not back down on its sovereignty or compromise freedom and democracy.

Tensions between Beijing and Taipei rose dramatically in August after China staged war games near Taiwan following the visit of US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan. These military activities continue, however, at a reduced pace.

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In a speech opening the ruling Communist Party’s 20th Party Congress in Beijing, Xi said China always “respected, nurtured and benefited” the people of Taiwan and was committed to promoting economic and cultural exchanges across the Taiwan Strait.

“Resolving the Taiwan issue is the Chinese people’s own business, and it is up to the Chinese people to decide,” he said.

“We insist on pursuing the prospect of peaceful reunification with the utmost sincerity and best efforts, but we will never promise to abandon the use of force and reserve the option of taking all necessary measures.”

That option targets “interference” from outside forces and a “very small number” of Taiwan’s independence supporters rather than the vast majority of the Taiwanese people, Xi said.

“The historical wheels of national reunification and national rejuvenation are rolling forward, and the complete reunification of the motherland must be achieved, and it must be achieved!” to added, to a long round of applause.

In response, Taiwan’s presidential office said the Republic of China – the island’s official name – was a sovereign and independent country.

“Taiwan’s position is firm: no support for national sovereignty, no compromise on democracy and freedom, and meeting on the battlefield is absolutely not an option for the two sides of the Taiwan Strait,” it said in a statement.

“This is the consensus of the people of Taiwan,” the presidential office said, adding that the national security team was closely monitoring developments at the congress.

In her National Day speech on Monday, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said war between Taiwan and China was not an option and reiterated her willingness to talk with Beijing, although she vowed to keep strengthening Taiwan’s defenses.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Taiwan Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang – who China imposed sanctions on last year and said was a separatist – said Xi should focus on his own people.

Referring to rare political protest banners on an overpass in Beijing on Thursday, Su said: “Xi Jinping should pay attention to the smoke and protest banners on the Sitong Bridge in Beijing instead of always thinking about using force to deal with Taiwan.”

China refuses to talk to Tsai and considers her a separatist.

Beijing has offered Taiwan a “one country, two systems” model of autonomy, the same formula it uses for Hong Kong. But all mainstream Taiwanese political parties have rejected this proposal, and it has almost no public support, according to opinion polls.

Taiwan says only its people can determine their own future and that Beijing’s claims are invalid as the People’s Republic of China has never ruled any part of the island.

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Reporting by Yew Lun Tian and Ben Blanchard; Editing by William Mallard

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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