TAIWAN’S president has accused the People’s Republic of China of seriously challenging peace and stability in the region through “military coercion” and a “unilateral diplomatic offensive”.

And she has urged Beijing not to be a “source of conflict”.

President Tsai Ing-wen declared Taiwan, a democracy of 23 million people known in its home territory as the Republic of China, would not give in and would find its “survival niche”.

While highlighting her determination to maintain peace as she focused on relations across the Taiwan Strait in her address to mark the Republic of China’s 107th National Day, she told her audience in Taipei yesterday: “Our lean and combat-ready troops absolutely have the ability to defend the sovereignty of the Republic of China (Taiwan).”

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Taiwan has faced increasing pressure from mainland China since President Tsai came to power in 2016 when her Democratic Progressive Party won the presidential election.

The People’s Republic of China has in recent months conducted high-profile military exercises in the Taiwan Strait, escalating tensions in the region and between Washington and Beijing.

Mainland China, which views Taiwan as a wayward province, has also launched a concerted campaign to try to make international airlines refrain from listing Taiwan as a country on their websites.

There is meanwhile a determination among segments of the Taiwanese population, particularly young people, to take a more assertive stance on the question of Taiwan’s independence.

A delicate status quo prevails between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China, based on the 1992 consensus reached between those on either side of the strait, of “one China, with respective interpretations”.

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President Tsai, who highlighted support for Taiwan from the US and Japan, said: “The international community is concerned about China's attempts to challenge the regional status quo. As Taiwan is on the frontline of the Western Pacific, we are naturally subject to tremendous pressure.

“For some time now, China's unilateral diplomatic offensive and military coercion have not only harmed cross-strait relations, they have also seriously challenged the status quo of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

President Tsai, who has taken a more robust stance towards the People’s Republic of China than Taiwan’s previous Kuomintang administration, added: “In the face of suppression, some people have wanted the government to adopt a more confrontational stance. Others believe that we should give in and compromise.

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“But ladies and gentlemen, the more dramatically things change the more Taiwan has to maintain stability, remain composed to reduce pressure, and calmly find our survival niche. Over the past two years, I have consistently insisted on protecting the free and democratic way of life of our 23 million people, defending the sustainable development of the Republic of China, and maintaining cross-strait peace and regional stability. These are the greatest common denominators among all the people of Taiwan.”

President Tsai declared that the entire world was dealing with the “expansion of Chinese influence”.

She added: “The government that I am leading will show the world Taiwan's strength and resilience. The best way to defend Taiwan is to make it indispensable and irreplaceable to the world.

“The people of Taiwan will never accept any attempt by external forces to unilaterally change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. And the international community will never approve of and support the violation of universal values. So once again, I am calling on the authorities in Beijing, as a responsible major power, to play a positive role in the region and the world, instead of being a source of conflict.”

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President Tsai said she wanted to assure everyone “that we will neither act rashly to escalate confrontation, nor will we give in”.

She added: “I will not be provoked into confrontation or conflicts that endanger cross-strait relations, nor will I deviate from the will of the people, and sacrifice Taiwan's sovereignty. In a world of dramatic change, we will not misjudge the situation. Escalating conflicts or giving in will only make things worse. We will continue to make Taiwan stronger, and irreplaceable in the global community. This is Taiwan's niche for sustainable survival.”

President Tsai, who emphasised Taiwan’s national defence budget would “grow steadily every year”, said current challenges to national security went “beyond traditional defence and military security”.

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She added: “Diplomatic pressure, social infiltration, and economic security are all potential threats.”

President Tsai cited as an element of Taiwan’s national security “preventing foreign powers from infiltrating and subverting our society, ensuring that our democratic institutions and social economy function normally”.