Taiwan's Tsai vows to boost defense budget amid China pressure

October 10, 2018 17:07
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen leads National Day celebrations in Taipei on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen vowed on Wednesday to boost national security, saying her government would not submit to Chinese suppression as Beijing ramps up pressure to assert its sovereignty over the self-ruled island, Reuters reports.

Tsai’s remarks came weeks ahead of islandwide local elections in late November that are seen as a bellwether for her ruling party’s performance in presidential elections due in 2020.

“At this time, China’s intimidation and diplomatic pressure not only hurts relations between both sides, but seriously challenges the peaceful stability in the Taiwan Strait,” she said in a National Day speech in Taipei.

Taiwan will increase its defense budget every year to ensure it can defend its sovereignty, Tsai said, by upgrading military capabilities and self-sufficiency, including resuming domestic development of advanced training aircraft and submarines.

China, which views Taiwan as a wayward province, has increased military and diplomatic pressure on Taipei, leading to a difficult period for the president and her independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Three former allies – El Salvador, Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic – switched their allegiances to Beijing this year, and the Chinese military has stepped up encirclement drills around Taiwan, which Tapei has denounced as intimidation.

Taiwan must work with other countries to build a coalition to defend democracy, Tsai said, thanking the European Parliament and the United States for their support.

Last month, the US State Department approved the sale to Taiwan of spare parts for F-16 fighter planes and other military aircraft worth up to US$330 million, a move China has said jeopardizes Sino-US cooperation.

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