Mainland China lashes out after Taiwan’s incoming leader William Lai invokes Japan to warn of cross-strait risks

Mainland China lashes out after Taiwan’s incoming leader William Lai invokes Japan to warn of cross-strait risks

Beijing has lashed out at Taiwanese president-elect William Lai Ching-te for “ingratiating” himself with Japan, less than two weeks before he is sworn in.

Lai said on Wednesday that he hoped to strengthen cooperation between Taiwan and Japan during his term in office, create economic prosperity for both sides, and “jointly maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region”.

Paying tribute in Tainan at a commemorative event for Japanese engineer Yoichi Hatta, who built a reservoir in the southern Taiwanese city during Japan’s colonial rule over the island, Lai reminded the audience of Tokyo’s concerns over peace in the Taiwan Strait.

He cited Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s comment last year that “Taiwan’s security is a global issue” and his opposition to any forcible change in the regional status quo, as well as a warning from Kishida’s predecessor, the late Shinzo Abe, that “Taiwan’s crisis is Japan’s crisis”.

William Lai pays his respects before a statue of Yoichi Hatta, in Tainan on Wednesday. Photo: Facebook/William Lai Ching-te

Beijing’s foreign ministry reacted strongly to Lai’s speech, with spokesman Lin Jian accusing him of banking on foreign forces to promote his ambitions of independence.

“The DPP authorities are bringing this claim up again, which once again exposes their underlying logic of ingratiating themselves with Japan and betraying Taiwan,” Lin said, referring to Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

“This once again reminded us that ‘Taiwan independence’ and interference by external forces are the most destructive factors to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

Beijing sees Taiwan as part of China to be reunited by force if necessary. Most countries, including Japan and the United States, do not recognise self-governed Taiwan as independent, but both are opposed to any attempt to take the island by force, as are the rest of the G7.

Lai, who serves as vice-president under the independence-leaning DPP, will be inaugurated as Taiwan’s leader on May 20, four months after winning the presidential election.

He succeeds President Tsai Ing-wen, whose two terms have been marked by rising cross-strait tensions following her refusal to accept a 1992 consensus on the “one-China principle”.

Lin repeated Beijing’s position that “one China” is a general consensus of the international community, and “there is no way out for ‘Taiwan independence’ secession under any pretext or in any form”.

He also denounced those in Japan who advocate “Taiwan’s crisis is Japan’s crisis” as “harbouring evil intents” and “obviously miscalculating”.

Beijing had summoned the Japanese ambassador to lodge a formal protest following the declaration from Abe in December 2021 – more than a year after he stepped down as prime minister over health issues.

Wednesday was not the first time Lai had referred to Abe’s comment. In a condolence note following an earthquake in Japan’s Ishikawa prefecture on New Year’s Day, he posted on X, formerly Twitter: “Japan’s crisis is Taiwan’s crisis.”



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