Tsai Ing-wen, President of Taiwan, referred to ongoing tensions in the Taiwan Strait between the two countries in a national address on January 1. She said Taiwan would be “willing to facilitate meaningful dialogue” with Beijing, provided China shared its interest in improving relations.
It comes after a year in which Chinese military aircraft have repeatedly been spotted entering Taiwan’s air defence identification zone.
Chinese officials have referred to Taiwan as “an inseparable part of Chinese territory” – though analysts say the country is effectively independent.
Ms Tsai said on Friday morning: “From a global strategic standpoint, Taiwan is more important than ever. Stabilizing relations across the Taiwan Strait is no longer just an issue for the two sides.
While China has blasted any independence movements within Taiwan, Beijing officials have also hit out at the country’s formal relations with the US this year.
On a number of occasions this year US officials have been flown to Taipei, including Washington’s Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
In a statement from the HHS, the US Government body said Mr Azar and Ms Tsai “discussed the ways the Trump Administration has strengthened the partnership between Taiwan and the United States, noting this visit highlights Taiwan’s success on health and combating COVID-19, the long-standing cooperation between the United States and Taiwan, and the democratic values shared.”
Zhao Lijian, Beijing’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, warned Taiwan was on a “misguided course” regarding independence following the meeting.
He also warned that “China firmly opposes official exchanges between the US and Taiwan under whatever pretext” and added: “Those playing with fire will end up burning themselves badly.”
Elsewhere in her New Year speech, Ms Tsai remarked that Taiwan had achieved a “normal lifestyle” despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
The country has reported a total of 808 cases and seven deaths.