A Taiwanese opposition party leader and presidential candidate has sought to reassure the country’s ally, the United States, that if she comes to power in January’s elections her government will have stable and responsible relations with China amid ongoing tension in the Taiwan Straits.
Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is in the US for a 12-day visit to strengthen relations ahead of next year's elections in which she will try to lead her party to replace the China-friendly the Kuomintang party in government.
The visit is seen as a critical move before the election as Tsai is expected to meet with government officials, congressmen and Taiwanese residents in the US.
She met with US officials at the State Department on Tuesday but no specific topics of discussion were provided.
Tsai later gave a speech at a Washington-based think-tank, the Centre for International and Strategic Studies, saying "Taiwan is and will continue to be a reliable partner of the US, ensuring peace and stability. We have a responsibility to contribute to the peaceful relationship across the Taiwan Strait," AP reported.
But she also called for stepped up military ties with the United States and Taiwan for stability.
"In light of the increasing military and security threat that Taiwan faces, developing symmetric capabilities that involve enhanced military relations with friendly forces and well-trained military personnel in a modern force structure .. are essential components of our deterrent," she said.
China regards Taiwan as part of its territory waiting to be reunified with the mainland since the two states split in 1949 at the end of the civil war between the Chinese Communist Party and nationalist KMT.
The United States no longer has diplomatic ties to Taiwan, but is the country’s leading arms supplier. US battle carriers were sent to the Taiwan Strait during the 1996-1997 missile crisis to defend against a possible Chinese invasion of the island.
However, since Taiwan's current president Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008, enmity has declined considerably and the two sides have signed a number of trade and investment deals.
Tsai has pledged to maintain the status quo if she wins, but has refused to accept the "One China principle" as the basis for relations.
China's ambassador to Washington, Cui Tiankai, criticised the visit and Tsai, saying "she should accept the one-China principle instead of making ambiguous statements," China's state-run Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying.