Taiwan’s victorious President Tsai Ing-wen meets US and Japanese envoys to repeat calls for closer ties

William Zheng

Fresh from her landslide election victory, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met the de facto US and Japanese envoys in Taiwan on Sunday, as Beijing warned other countries to abide by the principle there is only one China.

Tsai, from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), scored a landslide victory on Saturday over Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu of the mainland-friendly Kuomintang.

Tsai won more than 57 per cent, or more than 8 million votes – the highest total in Taiwan’s election history – while the DPP also snapped up 61 seats in the legislative election ensuring majority control.

On the heels of her election victory, Tsai met Brent Christensen, director of the American Institute in Taiwan on Sunday morning, reaffirming Taipei’s commitment to deepening security and economic cooperations with the US.

Christensen congratulated Tsai on her victory and she thanked him for his support.

“The Taiwan-US partnership has already grown from a bilateral partnership to a global partnership. In the future, we will continue to build on the foundation we have created over the past three years to strengthen our cooperation on global issues,” Tsai said.

She also stressed that Taiwan would “continue to cooperate to strengthen our national defence capabilities” and “looks forward to bolstering the integration of the Taiwan-US industry chain and continuing to deepen the trade relations”. While the US does not formally recognise Taiwan, it is legally bound to help the island defend itself.

Christensen said the US and Taiwan were not just partners, “we are members of the same community of democracies, bonded by our shared values”.

Hong Kong protesters in Taipei celebrate Tsai Ing-wen’s victory

Christensen’s remarks echoed a tweet by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday, in which he congratulated Tsai and said both sides had shared values.

On Sunday, Joe Biden, the former vice-president and one of the Democratic candidates in this year’s election, also congratulated Tsai via Twitter.

“You are stronger because of your free and open society,” Biden wrote. “The United States should continue strengthening our ties with Taiwan and other like-minded democracies.”

US President Donald Trump, who is due to sign an interim trade deal with Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He on Wednesday, has so far not tweeted or commented on the elections.

Trump spoke with Tsai by telephone three years ago after he won the US presidential election, a move that drew strong criticism from Beijing.

On Sunday Tsai also met Mitsuo Ohashi, chairman of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association in Taipei, during which she said Taiwan handled cross-strait relations “by refusing to bow to pressure, and refraining from provocation or rash behaviour, devoting our efforts to maintaining stability”.

Japan severed official relations with Taiwan in 1972 but has maintained close ties with Taipei since then, and the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association serves a similar role to that of the American Institute in Taiwan by acting as a de facto embassy.

Taiwan is now Japan’s fourth-largest trading partner.

Brent Christensen, director of the American Institute in Taiwan, meets President Tsai Ing-wen on Sunday. Photo: CNA

China considers the self-ruled island a part of its territory and opposes official contacts between the government in Taipei and other countries.

The foreign ministry in Beijing reiterated that Taiwan was an internal matter for China and this would not change because of Saturday’s elections.

“No matter what changes there are to the internal situation in Taiwan, the basic fact that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is part of China will not change,” the ministry said in a statement.

US-China-Taiwan relations likely just got more complicated

“The universal consensus of the international community adhering to the ‘one-China’ principle will not change either.”

On Saturday, Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office in Beijing, maintained that China would continue to advocate reunification with Taiwan under the “one country, two systems” formula.

Meanwhile, mainland Chinese state media played down Tsai’s landslide victory on Sunday and blamed the KMT’s defeat on “dirty tactics” by the DPP.

Tsai Ing-wen’s supporters celebrate her election victory. Photo: EPA-EFE

“This is obviously not a normal election,” the official news agency Xinhua said, adding that “external dark forces” were partly responsible.

However, some posts on the microblog Weibo said the leadership in Beijing should reflect on recent election results in Hong Kong, where pro-Beijing candidates lost heavily in district council elections, and Taiwan.

“Two election losses in a row in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Should our officials do some deep soul searching? Or they will continue to fool themselves and pretend everything is rosy?” one Weibo user posted.

Beijing ‘will view Tsai ’s victory as setback but not a crisis’

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times, a tabloid affiliate of People’s Daily, posted a message calling on people who had advocated the use of force against Taiwan to keep cool, warning that it would lead to a showdown between China and the US.

“That is the risk and challenge China needs to face with a cool mind,” he wrote.

Additional reporting by Associated Press and Reuters

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