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Taiwan says will be calm when dealing with China, but 2017 will test national security

TAIPEI Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Saturday that Taiwan will be “calm” when facing issues to do with China, but uncertainties next year will test the self-ruled island and its national security team, even as she recommitted to maintaining peace.

China is deeply suspicious of Tsai, who it thinks wants to push for the formal independence of Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing regards as a renegade province.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump angered China this month when he spoke to Tsai in a break with decades of precedent and cast doubt on his incoming administration’s commitment to Beijing’s “one China” policy.

Speaking at a year end news conference, Tsai said there was room to talk with China and things to talk about.

Taiwan’s pledge to maintain peace and stability has not changed and its goodwill toward China has not changed, she said, adding that Taiwan will not be pressured.

“Cross-strait relations are certainly a challenge for the people of Taiwan and for this country,” she said.

“But please don’t forget that Taiwan is a sovereign independent nation.”

Relations between China and Taiwan have worsened since Tsai, who heads the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, was elected president in January, even as she has pledged to maintain peace with China.

Defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan in 1949 at the end of a Chinese civil war and Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.

A group of Chinese warships led by the country’s sole aircraft carrier carried out drills this month that took them around Taiwan and through the disputed South China Sea on their way to the Chinese province of Hainan.

China’s air force also conducted long-range drills this month, which it said was routine, above the East and South China Seas that rattled Japan and Taiwan.

Further drama looms with Tsai’s transit through the United States next month for a Latin America trip. China has called on the United States to block the transits. [L4N1EP2IE]

Tsai said the transit was unofficial, and speculation about it “excessive”.

(Reporting by J.R. Wu; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)