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War with China is not an option, Taiwan ruling party VP candidate says

War with China is not an option, Taiwan ruling party VP candidate says
Hsiao Bi-khim, vice presidential candidate for Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and former envoy to the US, speaks to the media during a press conference in Taipei, Taiwan, Nov 23, 2023.
PHOTO: Reuters

TAIPEI — The vice presidential candidate for Taiwan's ruling party in a January election said on Thursday (Nov 23) that war with China is not an option, pointing to cross-strait communications as key to easing tension that has raised concern about the region's stability.

China, which views Taiwan as its own territory despite the strong objections of the government in Taipei, looms large over the Jan 13 poll especially as China has stepped up military pressure to assert its sovereignty claims.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) this week announced Hsiao Bi-khim, previously Taiwan's high-profile de facto ambassador to the US, as the running mate for its presidential candidate Lai Ching-te, the frontrunner to be the island's next leader.

China detests both Lai and Hsiao, viewing them as separatists, and has put sanctions on Hsiao twice, most recently in April.

Hsiao told reporters that "many other international friends" had also been sanctioned by China and she would forge ahead in her commitment to defending Taiwan's democracy.

"We have reiterated our position that we remain open to dialogue, that we are also committed to the status quo," she said.

"It's also important that the international community, who also agrees with our position in continuing peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, make clear to our counterparts across the Taiwan Strait that dialogue is the only way to resolve differences. War is not an option."

Hsiao, a fluent English speaker who became Taiwan's envoy to the US in 2020, brings her deep connections in Washington to Lai's campaign.

She said when it came to the US, Taiwan had to forge unified and bipartisan support and that expanding broad support among Americans was critical.

"American support to Taiwan cannot be limited to the beltway," Hsiao said, referring to the Washington political scene. "A rock solid partnership with the US is critically important right now."

The US, like most countries, has no formal ties with Taiwan but is its strongest international backer, bound by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

The DPP's smooth handling of its presidential campaign stands in stark contrast to that of Taiwan's two main opposition parties, the Kuomintang (KMT) and much smaller Taiwan People's Party (TPP) who are deadlocked on talks about running a joint ticket.

The deadline to register presidential and vice presidential candidates with the election commission is Friday afternoon. Lai and Hsiao registered on Tuesday.

The KMT, which traditionally favours close ties with Beijing, originally agreed to team up with the TPP but neither has been able to agree who runs as president and who as vice president.

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