China should have confidence to talk to us: Taiwan’s president-elect

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China should have the confidence to talk to Taiwan’s legally elected government, President-elect Lai Ching-te said on Thursday as he appointed his new national security and diplomacy team amid what he called unprecedented challenges.

China, which views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, over the island’s strong objections, has ramped up military and political pressure against Taipei during the past four years as it seeks to press sovereignty claims.

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Lai, who won election in January and takes office on May 20, is particularly disliked by Beijing, which views him as a dangerous separatist. Lai has repeatedly offered talks with China has but been rebuffed; he says only Taiwan’s people can decide their future.

The challenge the new national security team is facing is unprecedented, given the rise of authoritarianism, and China’s pressing closer all the time, Lai told reporters as he announced the teams, staffed by people reshuffled from jobs in the current administration.

He also again offered to talk to Beijing.

“I am very much looking forward to China having the confidence to engage with the elected and legitimate government that the Taiwan people have entrusted. That is the right way for cross-strait exchange,” he said.

Lai said Beijing would not get support from the Taiwan public if they are only willing to engage with Taiwan’s opposition with “political preconditions”, in a veiled reference to the island’s main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party, whose senior leaders have made frequent visits to China in recent months.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Beijing has repeatedly said any talks can only take place if Taiwan’s government accepts that both sides of the Taiwan Strait are part of “one China”, which is supported by the KMT but rejected by Lai and President Tsai Ing-wen.

National Security Council Secretary-General Wellington Koo, a lawyer by training, will take over as defence minister from Chiu Kuo-cheng, a former army commander, Lai said.

Current Foreign Minister Joseph Wu will succeed Koo as head of the National Security Council, while Lin Chia-lung, the serving secretary-general at the Presidential Office, will become the new foreign minister, he added.

The post of the head of the top China policy maker, the Mainland Affairs Council has gone to Chiu Chui-cheng, a former deputy on the council with years of China policy experience.

Intelligence chief Tsai Ming-yen stays on as head of the National Security Bureau.

The names of all the new ministers had been widely reported in Taiwanese media ahead of the announcement.

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