Taiwan president defiant after China calls for reunification

Chinese President Xi Jinping center listens to a speech during an event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Message to Compatriots in Taiwan

Chinese President Xi Jinping said Taiwan's unification with mainland China is "inevitable", issuing a stern warning against any separatist or independence attempts on the self-governing island in a firmly-worded speech Wednesday.

Xi was speaking on the anniversary of the "Message to Compatriots in Taiwan" on January 1, 1979, when China declared an end to what had been routine artillery bombardment of Taiwan-controlled offshore islands and offered to open up communication between the two sides.

"The goal remains a peaceful reunification", Xi Jinping said on Wednesday, speaking at Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

Rejecting the defeat of her ruling Democratic Progressive Party in the November local elections as a signal that Taiwanese people would concede the nation's sovereignty and autonomy, President Tsai said her administration will embark on work to safeguard the nation's sovereignty and to reinforce its democratic system.

The "Message of Compatriots in Taiwan" on January 1, 1979, declared an end to routine artillery bombardment of Taiwan-controlled islands close to China, marking a turning point from decades of hostility between the two sides.

China reserves the option of taking "all necessary means" to achieve reunification with Taiwan, the leader asserted. He did mention the historical completion of the "Three Links" between Taiwan and China and expressed a wish that the outlying ROC islands of Kinmen and Matsu be connected by bridge to China - an idea touted in the past by Kinmen politicians.

The "1992 consensus" refers to a verbal agreement reached in 1992 between the then Kuomintang (KMT) government of Taiwan and Chinese communist officials that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge there is only "one China", with each side free to interpret what "China" means.

China still sees democratic Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunified, despite the two sides being ruled separately since the end of a civil war on the mainland in 1949.

At the same time, he said China has offered economic opportunities for Taiwan and that China "does not attack Chinese people".

Should mainland Chinese indeed flock to Taiwan in 2019, tourism operators in KMT-led cities and counties could see significant increases in revenue - which will inevitably lead some to attribute the gains exclusively to the KMT's attempt to warm relations with Beijing, while overlooking ongoing efforts to attract tourists of other nationalities under the New Southbound Policy. The rival Nationalists set up their own government on the island about 160 kilometers (100 miles) off the Chinese mainland. Washington and Beijing established ties only after the United States broke its formal ties to Taiwan.

He pledged that a one-country, two-systems framework would respect the Taiwanese social system and way of life and guarantee their property rights, religious beliefs and other rights.

Since coming to power six years ago, Xi has employed both incentives and pressure to steer Taiwan toward unification.

Xi said going against the "one China principle will result in tension and turbulence".

Tsai said Taiwan is willing to talk, but it must be with the approval of the Taiwanese people.

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