TAIPEI - China must rethink its hardline stance towards Taiwan, President Tsai Ing-wen said yesterday, as she warned the island was already independent and any invasion would be "very costly" for Beijing.
Ms Tsai won a second term over the weekend with a record 8.2 million votes, an outcome that was seen as a forceful rebuke of China's ongoing campaign to isolate the island.
China's leadership has made no secret of its desire to see Ms Tsai turfed out because she and her party refuse to acknowledge that the island is part of "one China".
Beijing regards Taiwan as its territory and has vowed to one day seize it - by force if necessary - especially if it declares independence.
But in her first interview since Saturday's re-election, Ms Tsai told the BBC there was no need to formally announce independence because the island already runs itself.
"We don't have a need to declare ourselves an independent state," she said in the interview, which aired yesterday.
"We are an independent country already and we call ourselves the Republic of China, Taiwan."
Polls show growing numbers of Taiwanese reject the idea that the island should be part of the Chinese mainland.
"We have a separate identity and we are a country of our own," Ms Tsai said. "We deserve respect from China."
Yesterday, Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office said there were no plans to change policy towards the island after the landslide election.
"Taiwan's future lies in the unification of the country," spokesman Ma Xiaoguang said, adding its future must be decided by "all Chinese people".
But Ms Tsai said China should respect the wishes of Taiwan's electorate.
She was speaking as she announced a new "anti-infiltration law" had been signed into effect, making it illegal to launch political activities that are backed or funded by "hostile external forces".
In her BBC interview - which came as Taiwan held annual military drills on the south of the island - Ms Tsai warned Beijing against sending in troops.
"Invading Taiwan is something that is going to be very costly for China," she said.
Critics accuse Ms Tsai of being needlessly antagonistic towards Beijing. But Ms Tsai said she had resisted pressure from within her own party to be more forceful on the issue of independence.