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International relations

Taiwan's president says China is a 'source of conflict'

Tsai ramps up anti-Beijing rhetoric, claims China is challenging the status quo

TAIPEI -- Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen used a speech on Wednesday to rip into China over what she sees as Beijing's destabilizing effect on the region and cross-strait relations.

"A responsible country should be playing a positive role in the region and in the world rather than be a source of conflict," Tsai said in a National Day address in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei.

Tsai ramped up the rhetoric from last year's address, when she talked about trying to find new ways to interact with China. Her harsh language was reminiscent of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's criticism of China in Washington last week, when he blasted China for meddling in U.S. elections and its expansionist plans in the South China Sea.

"China's unilateral diplomatic offensive and military coercion have not only harmed cross-strait relations. They have also seriously challenged the status quo of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait," she said.

She pledged to enhance Taiwan's national security footing and boost the island's defense budget every year she is in power. But added that her military would act responsibly.

"As president, I want to assure everyone that we will neither act impulsively to escalate confrontation, nor will we give in," she said. "In a world of dramatic change, we will not misjudge the situation. Escalating conflicts or giving in will only make things worse."

Cross-strait relations have deteriorated since Tsai was elected in May 2016. Beijing sees Tsai and her party Democratic Progressive Party as seeking independence for Taiwan -- a red line for Beijing

The island has also lost five diplomatic allies over the past two years, now having formal ties with just 17 nations. The latest loss was in August when El Salvador severed ties with Taiwan.

In the address -- 15 of the allotted 25 minutes were spent on China -- she cited Pence's praise for Taiwan's democracy and condemnation of China's suppression of the island's diplomatic efforts.

Pence's comments came as U.S.-China relations grow increasingly confrontational. At a news conference last week, U.S. President Donald Trump suggested that his relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping may no longer be one of friendship.

The vice president noted that the Chinese Communist Party had used an array of policies that were inconsistent with free and fair trade, including "tariffs, quotas, currency manipulation, forced technology transfer, intellectual property theft, and industrial subsidies that are handed out like candy to foreign investment."

Pence said that Beijing was "using its power like never before," criticizing the country's actions in surrounding waters. In the South China Sea, the vice president said China had reneged on a previous declaration of having "no intention to militarize" the sea.

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