TAIPEI —Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen vowed to boost national security, saying her government won’t submit to pressure from the Beijing regime or its attempts to assert sovereignty over the self-ruled island.
Tsai’s remarks came weeks ahead of island-wide local elections in late November that are seen as a bellwether for her ruling party’s performance in presidential elections due in 2020.
“At this time, China’s intimidation and diplomatic pressure not only hurts relations between both sides, but seriously challenges the peaceful stability in the Taiwan Strait,” she said in a National Day speech on Oct. 10 in Taipei.
Taiwan plans to increase its defense budget every year to ensure that it can defend its sovereignty, Tsai said, through the upgrading of military capabilities and self-sufficiency, including the resumption of domestic efforts to develop advanced training aircraft and submarines.
The Beijing regime has increased military and diplomatic pressure on Taipei, leading to a difficult period for the president and her independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
China has missiles aimed at Taiwan and has flown military aircraft near the island at least a dozen times since 2015, which Tapei has denounced as intimidation.
Beijing has persuaded five diplomatic allies to switch allegiance during Tsai’s presidency. Three former allies—El Salvador, Burkina Faso, and the Dominican Republic—switched their allegiances to Beijing this year. Today, just 17 countries recognize Taiwan, compared to the more than 170 that recognize China.
Taiwan must work with other countries to build a coalition to defend democracy, said Tsai, who thanked the European Parliament and the United States for their support. Taiwan is getting more favorable attention from its staunchest informal ally, the United States, Tsai said.
President Donald Trump’s administration has approved two Taiwan arms packages, allowed the first step in submarine technology sales and signed a bill that encourages high-level visits.
Last month, the U.S. State Department approved the sale to Taiwan of spare parts for F-16 fighter planes and other military aircraft worth up to $330 million.
Relations with Beijing have nosedived since Tsai came into office in 2016, with China suspecting that she wants to push for formal independence, a red line for Beijing.
The Chinese regime has been ratcheting up diplomatic, economic and military pressure on Taiwan in a bid to compel her to agree to Beijing’s insistence that the self-governing island democracy is a part of China. China and Taiwan separated amid a civil war in 1949. Taiwan has a separate political and economic system from mainland China and is, for the most part, a separate country, but Beijing views Taiwan as a region that will one day be reunited with the mainland.
For her part, Tsai has repeatedly emphasized maintaining the status quo since coming to power.
On Oct. 10, she called for a multinational effort to fight some types of infiltration, such as the circulation of fake news by certain countries, which she didn’t identify.
“I would like to pledge to everyone that we will not rashly increase antagonism, but we won’t submit or yield,” she said.
The Oct. 10 holiday marks the 1911 founding of the Republic of China, which once ruled on the mainland but was forced to retreat to Taiwan in 1949, after Mao Zedong’s Communists seized power from Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists.
By Jess Macy Yu & Yimou Lee. The Associated Press contributed to this report.