Taiwan wants to have "meaningful dialogue" with China on an equal basis, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Saturday, extending an olive branch at a time of heightened military tension with Beijing, which claims the island as sovereign Chinese territory.
Democratic Taiwan has come under increasing pressure from Beijing, which has ramped up air force activity near the island in the past few weeks, including crossing the Taiwan Strait's sensitive mid line that normally serves as an unofficial buffer zone.
China says it is responding to "collusion" between Washington and Taipei, angered at growing US support for the self-governed island. Beijing views this a precursor to Taiwan declaring formal independence, a red line for China.
Speaking at National Day celebrations, Tsai described the situation in the Taiwan Strait as "quite tense”. This, along with disputes in the South China Sea, a China-India border conflict and China's crackdown in Hong Kong, showed democracy and peace in the region were facing big challenges, she said.
If Beijing can heed Taiwan's voice and jointly facilitate reconciliation and peaceful dialogue, regional tension can surely be resolved, she added. "As long as the Beijing authorities are willing to resolve antagonisms and improve cross-strait relations, while parity and dignity are maintained, we are willing to work together to facilitate meaningful dialogue," Tsai said.
"Our commitment to our sovereignty and democratic values will not change, but we will also maintain strategic flexibility and be responsive to changes," she said, without elaborating.
There was no immediate reaction from China, which cut off a formal talks mechanism in 2016 after Tsai first won office.
Earlier this week, China was accused by Taiwan of trying to impose censorship in India after its embassy in New Delhi advised journalists to observe the "one-China" principle when newspapers carried advertisements for Taiwan's national day.
China's hackles were raised on Wednesday by advertisements placed in leading Indian newspapers by Taiwan's government to mark the democratic, Chinese-claimed island's national day. The advertisement carried a photograph of President Tsai and hailed India, a fellow democracy, as a natural partner of Taiwan.
China made its displeasure evident in an e-mail sent by its embassy on Wednesday night to journalists in India. "Regarding the so-called forthcoming 'National Day of Taiwan', the Chinese Embassy in India would like to remind our media friends that there is only one China in the world, and the Government of the People's Republic of China is the sole legitimate government representing the whole of China," the embassy said.
"We hope Indian media can stick to Indian government's position on Taiwan question and do not violate the 'One China' principle.
"In particular, Taiwan shall not be referred to as a 'country (nation)' or 'Republic of China' or the leader of China's Taiwan region as 'President', so as not to send the wrong signals to the general public."
Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu scoffed at Beijing's advice to Indian media.
"India is the largest democracy on Earth with a vibrant press & freedom-loving people. But it looks like communist #China is hoping to march into the subcontinent by imposing censorship. #Taiwan's Indian friends will have one reply: GET LOST!" he said in a tweet.
In what may rile China further, Taiwan’s foreign minister doubled down on its retort on the eve of its national day.
“Our hearts are touched in #Taiwan by this wonderful support. Thank you! When I say I like India, I really mean it. "Get Lost",” Taiwan’s foreign ministry tweeted.
So many friends from #India🇮🇳 are ready to join in celebrating #TaiwanNationalDay🇹🇼. Our hearts are touched in #Taiwan by this wonderful support. Thank you! When I say I like India, I really mean it. "Get Lost" Minister JW pic.twitter.com/4UbKyz6qXK
— 外交部 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ROC (Taiwan) 🇹🇼 (@MOFA_Taiwan) October 9, 2020
New Delhi has no formal diplomatic relations with Taipei, but both sides have close business and cultural ties.