Appeasing China will not bring peace, Taiwan’s vice-president has said, days after he was elected head of the ruling party in a move that makes him a prime presidential contender at the next election.
William Lai, 63, is seen as a likely successor to President Tsai Ing-wen, who is barred from running again after her second four-year term ends in May 2024.
Lai has been more outspoken on Taiwanese independence than Tsai, and he is openly loathed by Beijing for that reason.
“Appeasement cannot buy peace,” Lai said on Wednesday in his first comments on China since assuming the Democratic Progressive party leadership.
He urged Taiwanese people to unite in the face of “the expansion of China’s authoritarianism”, saying that “only by uniting all people and strengthening our defence capabilities can we truly protect our security”.
Self-governed Taiwan lives under constant fear of an invasion by China, which claims the island democracy as a part of its territory to be seized one day, by force if necessary.
China has ramped up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan since Tsai’s 2016 election as she rejects China’s stance and views the island as a sovereign nation.
Beijing has said any Taiwanese move towards a declaration of a formal independence would prompt a military response.
Lai said on Wednesday there was no need to declare independence because Taiwan was “already a sovereign country”, echoing previous comments by Tsai.