TAIPEI Taiwan aspires to create a “new era” of peace with China, which should set aside the baggage of history and have positive dialogue, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said in a letter to Pope Francis, adding military action cannot resolve problems.
The issue of self-ruled and proudly democratic Taiwan has shot to the top of the international agenda since U.S. President-elect Donald Trump broke with decades of precedent last month by taking a congratulatory telephone call from Tsai.
That, along with subsequent comments by Trump that the “One China” policy was up for negotiation, has infuriated Beijing, which views Taiwan as a wayward province, to be bought under its control by force if necessary.
China is deeply suspicious of Tsai, whose ruling Democratic Progressive Party espouses the island’s formal independence, a red line for Beijing, and has cut off a formal dialogue mechanism with Taiwan.
In her Jan. 5 letter to the Pope, released by her office on Friday, Tsai said upholding peace across the Taiwan Strait called for goodwill and communication.
“Based on many years of experience in cross-Strait negotiations during my political career, I am convinced that military action cannot resolve problems,” Tsai said.
“Taiwan and mainland China were once embroiled in a zero-sum conflict that caused tension in the region and anxiety among our peoples. In contrast, today people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait enjoy stable lives and normal exchanges under peaceful separate governance.”
Taiwan is committed to maintaining its democracy and the status quo of peace, but will not bow to pressure, she added.
“I urge the governing party across the Strait, together with the governing party in Taiwan, to set aside the baggage of history and engage in positive dialogue,” Tsai said.
The Vatican is one of only a handful of countries which still maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, though the Pope is trying to heal a decades-old rift with China where Catholics are divided between those loyal to him and those who are members of a government-controlled official church.
Tsai said she sought to live up to the Pope’s words on nonviolent action.
“As the first female president in the ethnic Chinese world, I aspire to live up to your words as I devote myself to enhancing the well-being of the Taiwanese people and creating a new era for cross-Strait peace.”
(Reporting by J.R. Wu; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)