China's Xi Jinping threatens resort to 'force' to unify with Taiwan

Xi'We have achieved great victory on defeating any pro-independence or separatist activities

Tsai spoke after Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a speech earlier on Wednesday that nobody can change the fact that Taiwan is part of China, and that people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should seek "reunification".

In a policy speech centered on Taiwan, Xi said, "We are willing to create a vast space for peaceful reunification, but we will never leave any room for any sort of Taiwan independence separatist activities".

In his speech, Xi described unification under a "one country, two systems" approach that would "safeguard the interests and well-being of Taiwanese compatriots".

On January 1, 1979, China declared an end to what had been routine artillery bombardment of Taiwan-controlled offshore islands close to China and offered to open up communications between the two sides, after decades of hostility.

The Chinese president's urging for the two to come to the table came during a speech marking the 40th anniversary of the "Message of Compatriots in Tawain" when, on January 1, 1979, China offered to open up communications and stop military action against the island.

The primary objective of Xi's speech, said a Taiwanese analyst, is to send a message to the United States that China would not tolerate any interference from Washington in the Taiwan issue.

President Tsai Ing-wen said her self-governing island of 23 million people would never accept the "one country, two systems" plan that China proposes.

"The country is growing strong, the nation is rejuvenating and unification between the two sides of the strait is the great trend of history", Xi said.

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"With the current situation between China and Taiwan, I don't think there is that foundation of trust for any kind of in-depth discussion of debate on these issues", said Raymond Wu, managing director of Taipei-based political risk consultancy e-telligence, referring to Tsai's ideas. As part of the government's New Southbound Policy, visitors from six Southeast Asian countries were allowed visa-free entry to Taiwan if they held a resident card or visa for Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, any European Union or Schengen countries, the United Kingdom, or the U.S. that had expired less than 10 years prior to their date of arrival.

All told, the speech amounted to a more balanced tack at a juncture when Taiwan is gearing up for presidential elections, and mainland officials - and Taiwanese politicians - see an opportunity to press their case.

In Taiwan's November elections, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen's party lost.

Cross-strait issues on the part of Taiwan should be handled by the elected government which is monitored by Taiwanese people, said President Tsai.

"It will only bring more opportunities for other countries".

"It's so obvious that they're trying to assimilate Hong Kong into wider mainland China in every way". In 2019, Beijing will likely further ramp up such pressure tactics on Taiwan.

Chairman Xi's talk came a day after President Tsai took a hard line on Taiwan's future relationship with China in her New Year's address.

In recent years, Beijing has become increasingly assertive over its claims and what it says is a key question of national sovereignty.

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