Updated Oct 10, 2021 - World

Taiwan leader vows to bolster defenses amid China government threat

Comination images of Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen and China's President Xi Jingping.

Combination images of Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen and China's President Xi Jinping. Photo: Walid Berrazeg/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images/Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

President Tsai Ing-wen said Sunday that Taiwan would never "bow to pressure" from China's government and pledged to strengthen the self-governing island's defenses to protect its "democratic way of life," per the BBC.

Why it matters: Tsai's declaration on Taiwan's National Day came one day after China's President Xi Jinping vowed to achieve "peaceful reunification" with Taiwan.

Driving the news: Xi said Saturday that the biggest barrier to potential reunification with China was the "Taiwan independence" force, adding "those who forget their heritage, betray their motherland and seek to split the country will come to no good," CNN notes.

  • Xi said he sought peaceful reunification under a "one country, two systems" policy, an offer that Taiwan's presidential office staunchly opposes, Reuters reports.

What they're saying: Tsai noted in her speech the record 145 fighter Chinese military planes that entered Taiwan's air defense identification zone last week, according to the BBC.

  • She said her government would "continue to bolster our national defense and demonstrate our determination to defend ourselves in order to ensure that nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us," per Al Jazeera.
  • "This is because the path that China has laid out offers neither a free and democratic way of life for Taiwan, nor sovereignty for our 23 million people," Tsai added.

Of note: Tsai, who was reelected by a landslide last year after pledging to stand up for Taiwan's democracy, reiterated her offer for peace talks with Chinese government leaders, which has so far been rejected.

Background: Taiwan and mainland China have been governed separately for more than seven decades.

Between the lines: The Wall Street Journal reported last week that U.S. forces have been secretly training military forces in Taiwan for more than a year amid increasing concerns over Chinese aggression.

Go deeper: Biden says he and China's Xi have agreed to abide by Taiwan "agreement"

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Tsai and further context.

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