TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Sunday offered to provide “necessary assistance” to China to help it deal with a surge in COVID-19 cases, but said Chinese military activities near the island were not beneficial to it. Peace and stability.
In a surprising change of policy, China last month began to dismantle the world’s strictest pandemic regime of lockdowns and massive testing, which means COVID-19 is spreading largely unchecked and potentially infecting millions of people daily, according to some international health experts.
In her traditional New Year’s message delivered at the presidential office, Tsai said everyone had seen a rise in cases in China, which views Taiwan as its own territory and stepped up military pressure to confirm the claims.
“As long as there is a need, based on the humanitarian care situation, we are ready to provide the necessary assistance to help more people get out of the epidemic and enjoy a healthy and safe New Year,” she said, without elaborating.
Taiwan and China have repeatedly quarreled over each other’s measures to control the spread of COVID.
China criticized Taiwan for its ineffective management of the epidemic 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.
Tsai reiterated his call for dialogue with China, saying war is not an option to solve problems.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, in his New Year’s speech on Saturday night, only made a brief reference to Taiwan, saying that people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are “members of one and the same family”, and did not mention the pursuit of family. The island is under Chinese control.
Responding to reporters’ questions, Tsai said she had noted Xi’s “nice” remarks.
“But I want to remind people that the PLA’s military activities near Taiwan are absolutely not conducive to cross-strait relations, nor to regional peace and stability,” she added.
Shortly after Tsai spoke, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said 12 Chinese military aircraft had crossed the middle line of the Taiwan Strait, which previously served as an unofficial buffer zone between the two sides, in the past 24 hours.
China staged war games near the island in August after then-Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei, and those military activities continued.
Tsai has said repeatedly that she wants talks and peace with China, but that Taiwan will defend itself if attacked and that only its 23 million people can decide their future. China views Tsai as a separatist and has refused to talk to her.
(Reporting by Jenny Kao) Written by Ben Blanchard. Editing by Kim Coghill
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