Taiwan president calls for breakthrough in cross-straits relations

(Reuters) – Taiwan and China need to drop historical baggage to seek a breakthrough in cross-straits relations, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said in her first public comments since China’s ruling Communist Party unveiled a new leadership line-up.

Relations nose-dived after Tsai, who leads the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, took office last year, with China suspecting that she wants to push for the island’s formal independence, a red line for Beijing.

Beijing has suspended a regular dialogue mechanism with Taipei established under Taiwan’s previous, China-friendly government, and there has been a dramatic fall in the number of Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan under Tsai’s administration.

“Right now is a turning point for change. I once again call on leaders of both sides to … seek a breakthrough in cross-straits relations and to benefit the long-term welfare of people on both sides and to forever eliminate hostilities and conflict,” Tsai told a cross-straits forum.

While acknowledging the changes in China’s leadership announced on Wednesday, Tsia did not comment specifically on the composition of Xi’s core team.

But, she reiterated that while the island’s goodwill toward China would not change, Taipei would not submit to pressure.

Chinese President Xi Jinping drew strong applause at the start of the Communist Party Congress last week when he said that any attempt to separate Taiwan from China would be thwarted.

Taipei’s Mainland Affairs Council delivered a swift response, saying it was “absolutely” the right of Taiwan’s 23 million people to decide their future.

China regards self-ruled and democratic Taiwan as a wayward territory, to be brought under Beijing’s rule by force if necessary.

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