Tsai calls for calm, rational approach to cross-strait relations

President Tsai Ing-wen said October 4 that when it comes to cross-strait relations, the government's commitment to maintaining the status quo remains unchanged, its goodwill is unchanged, it will not yield to mainland Chinese pressure and it does not want a return to past practices of confrontation.

Tsai made the remarks during an interview with The Wall Street Journal at the Office of the President in Taipei City. I hope both sides can sit down to talk, she said.

According to the president, mainland China is again taking the relationship backward, as illustrated by the country's exclusion from the International Civil Aviation Organization's triennial assembly underway in Montreal.

I hope that this�and the overall situation�is not misinterpreted by mainland China to the degree where they believe pressure can force Taiwanese people to yield, she said. I believe that as a democratic society, the Taiwanese people will stand up against this pressure together. The government will never enact measures that defy public opinion in Taiwan.

The president said Taiwan's meaningful, proactive and substantive participation in international organizations is a positive contribution to the world. We must do our very best to let the world take Taiwan seriously. We also hope the international community can speak up for us and right the wrongs for us.

On the economic and trade front, Tsai said the complementary nature of Taiwan's and mainland China's economies is decreasing while competition is increasing. As a result, Taiwan must maintain its cross-strait economic achievements while seeking new growth drivers and expanding trade ties with its partners around the world, she added.

A key component in this undertaking is revitalizing the nation's traditional and manufacturing industries, as well as promoting strengths like innovation and R&D, the president said. Through innovation, we can elevate the value and competitiveness of Taiwan-made products or services. This is the only way we can continue enjoying a leading competitive edge in the international market.

Such an approach better prepares Taiwan to strengthen interactions with the potential-laden and highly complementary economies of Southeast Asia and South Asia, according to Tsai. Central to the success of this push is her New Southbound Policy, which aims to create fresh economic impetus, deepen trade and cultural links with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, South Asia nations, Australia and New Zealand, and ensure all segments of society share in long-term prosperity. It also helps prepare Taiwan to quickly adjust to changing global conditions and the trend toward regional economic integration.

Concerning Taiwan's foreign relations, the president identified common interests as the most important factor in maintaining ties. Our common interests are based on our collective pursuits in economic growth, trade exchanges and values. If we can develop these ties to the fullest extent, I feel we can maintain strong and stable relations with these countries, both allies and non-allies alike.

We focus on the actual substance of ties, Tsai added. If our markets and economies are complementary, then this is a relationship imperative for us to pursue. This way, our relations would be mutually beneficial.

Regarding the award rendered in July by the tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the South China Sea arbitration, which includes Taiping Island in the Nansha (Spratly) Islands, the president reiterated that it is unacceptable and not legally binding on Taiwan.

There are three reasons. First of all, we were not invited to participate in the proceedings and our views went unexpressed. Secondly, in the ruling, it referred to Taiwan as 'Taiwan Authority of China.' We cannot accept this. Third, in our opinion, Taiping Island is an island and not a rock.

Tsai said the Republic of China (Taiwan) is entitled to all rights in accordance with international law and the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea over the South China Sea islands and their relevant waters. She urged peaceful resolution of disputes in the region through multilateral negotiations and the recognition of Taiwan as a stakeholder by related countries.

As a stakeholder, we must be part of the negotiations and allowed to participate as other claimants, she said, adding that the government will continue working to build Taiping Island into a regional base for ecological and environmental conservation, emergency rescue, humanitarian assistance and scientific research.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China (Taiwan)