Taiwan’s President Tsai offers China assistance over virus surge

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Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen extended an olive branch to Beijing on Sunday, pledging to offer assistance if needed as COVID-19 cases surge in China after its abrupt lifting of pandemic restrictions.

“As long as there is a need, we are willing to provide necessary assistance based on humanitarian concerns,” Tsai said in her customary New Year’s Day speech.

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She added that she hoped Taiwanese aid could “help more people out of the pandemic and have a healthy and safe New Year.”

China is facing an explosion of COVID-19 cases after dropping its stringent “zero-COVID-19” containment policy last month, three years after the COVID-19 first emerged in the city of Wuhan.

Chinese hospitals have been hit by a flood of mostly elderly patients, crematoriums have been overloaded and many pharmacies have run out of fever medications.

In his televised New Year speech on Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the “light of hope is right in front of us” as epidemic prevention and control entered “a new phase.”

Xi also said in a separate speech on Friday that Beijing “resolutely fought against attempts by separatists to seek ‘Taiwan independence’ and intervention of external forces in this regard.”

Relations between Taiwan and China have deteriorated, with Beijing ramping up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on the self-ruled island, which it claims as part of its territory.

Last year Beijing staged massive military exercises near the island to protest a visit to Taipei by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in August.

Tsai said Sunday the Chinese military activities around Taiwan were “unhelpful” for maintaining relations between the two.

“War has never been an option to solve problems. Only dialogue, cooperation, and the common goal of promoting regional stability and development can make more people feel safe and happy,” she said.

A shared task for Taiwan and China in 2023 was to “restore post-pandemic healthy and sustainable exchanges between the people on the two sides” of the Taiwan Strait, she added.

“We also have a shared duty to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the region.”

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