Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday that her recent overseas trip, which included the United States, showed the world Taiwan’s determination to defend freedom and democracy, even as the prompted China to stage war games around the island.
Tsai met U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles last week at the end of her tour, which included stops in Guatemala and Belize.
An infuriated China, which views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory with no right to the trappings of a state, launched military drills around the island starting on Saturday.
“Through this trip we again sent a message to the international community that Taiwan is determined to safeguard freedom and democracy which won acknowledgment and support from our democratic partners,” Tsai said as she met Canadian lawmakers at her office in Taipei.
“Faced with continued authoritarian expansionism it is even more critical for democracies to actively unite,” she added. “Canada is a very important democratic partner. We are willing to do our utmost to jointly safeguard the values of freedom and democracy with Canada and many more like-minded international partners.”
Despite the tensions with China, Tsai looked relaxed as she greeted the 10 Canadian legislators, even cracking a joke after the interpreter said “bonjour”, the French word for hello, in translating her opening remarks into English.
“That’s French!” she said in English, smiling and pointing to the interpreter, as the lawmakers chuckled.
Despite China announcing the three days of drills had ended as scheduled on Monday, Beijing has continued military activities around Taiwan.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Wednesday morning that in the previous 24 hours it had detected 35 Chinese military aircraft and eight navy vessels around Taiwan.
Of those aircraft, 14 had crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, according to a ministry-provided map; the line normally serves as an unofficial barrier between the two sides.
The aircraft crossing the median line included five Su-30 fighters at its northern end, with the other planes crossing at points in the centre and south.
Although Chinese fighters previously only occasionally crossed the median line, the country’s air force has done so regularly since staging war games near Taiwan in August, after a visit to Taipei of then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
China says it does not recognise the existence of the line.
Taiwan’s government strongly rejects China’s sovereignty claims and says only Taiwan’s people can decide their future.