Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen told Pope Francis in a letter that war with China “is not an option” and called for constructive talks with Beijing, which claims the island as part of its territory, self-governing depends on respecting Taiwan’s democracy.
Vatican City is the last European government to have diplomatic relations with Taiwan rather than Beijing, although the United States and other Western nations maintain extensive informal ties. Taiwanese leaders are uneasy about the Vatican’s efforts to develop ties with Beijing.
Tsai, in a letter released by her office, expressed support for Russia’s war against Ukraine, “migrant-friendly policies” and the Vatican’s position on public health.
“We deeply identify with your views,” Tsai wrote.
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Taiwan and China split after a civil war in 1949 and have no official ties but are linked by billions of dollars in trade and investment. The Chinese Communist Party regularly flies fighter jets and bombers near Taiwan to enforce its stance that the island is bound to unite with the mainland if necessary.
Tsai referred to Francis’ January 1 message for World Peace Day that the “virus of war” must be cured. He quoted himself in an October 10 speech rejecting armed conflict in the Taiwan Strait and calling for “peace and stability”.
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“Armed confrontation is absolutely not an option,” Tsai wrote.
“Only by respecting the Taiwanese people’s commitment to our sovereignty, democracy and independence can there be a foundation for resuming constructive dialogue across the Taiwan Strait,” Tsai’s letter said.
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As China stepped up efforts to pressure the island, including firing missiles into the sea, in August Nancy Pelosi, then-Speaker of the US House of Representatives, became the highest-ranking US official to visit the island in 25 years. Legislators from Britain and other countries have also visited Taiwan in support of their elected government.
Chen Chien-jen, a former Taiwanese vice president under Tsai, represented the island at the funeral of former Pope Benedict this month.