Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Sunday offered to provide “necessary aid” to China to help it deal with a surge in COVID-19 cases, but said Chinese military activities near the island would not be conducive to peace and stability in the region.
In a sudden shift in policy, China last month began abandoning the policy of closures and extensive testing, which were described as the most stringent in the world, to contain the pandemic. This shift means that Covid-19 is spreading unchecked, and international health experts said the virus could infect millions of people every day.
In her traditional New Year message delivered at the Presidential Office, Tsai said that everyone has seen the significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in China. China considers Taiwan part of its territory and has stepped up its military pressure to confirm this.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen
“As long as there is a need and in view of the humanitarian care situation, we are ready to provide the necessary assistance to help more people overcome the pandemic and enjoy a healthy and safe New Year,” the Taiwanese president said, without elaborating.
Taiwan and China have sparred repeatedly over each other’s measures to control the spread of COVID-19.
China criticized Taiwan for its ineffective management of dealing with the pandemic after the number of domestic infections rose last year, while Taiwan accused China of lacking transparency and trying to interfere with vaccine supplies to Taiwan, which Beijing denied.
The Taiwan leader reiterated her call for dialogue with China and said war is not an option to solve problems.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, in his New Year’s address, made brief reference to Taiwan, saying that people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are “members of the same family,” and made no mention of seeking to bring the island under Chinese control.
Shortly after Tsai’s speech, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said that in the past 24 hours, 12 Chinese military aircraft have crossed the dividing line of the Taiwan Strait, which previously served as an unofficial buffer zone between the two sides.
Tsai has repeatedly stressed her desire to hold talks with China and reach peace, but has made clear that Taiwan will defend itself if attacked and that only its 23 million people can decide their future.