Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen Wednesday called on mainland China to be a responsible player in the region and not to be a "source of conflict," vowing that her government will not succumb to pressure exerted by Beijing.
In a speech to mark the 107th birthday of the Republic of China -- as Taiwan views itself -- Tsai said Beijing's military and diplomatic coercion of the self-ruled island has undermined relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, seriously challenging the status quo of cross-strait peace and stability.
"I am calling on the authorities in Beijing, as a responsible major power, to play a positive role in the region and the world, instead of being a source of conflict," she said.
While Tsai pledged she will not give in to Chinese pressure, she assured the Taiwanese public that she will not act rashly to escalate tensions, nor will she "be provoked into confrontation or conflicts that endanger cross-strait relations, nor will I deviate from the will of the people, and sacrifice Taiwan's sovereignty."
As the head of state, Tsai said she is committed to "protecting the free and democratic way of life of our 23 million people, defending the sustainable development of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and maintaining cross-strait peace and regional stability."
"Taiwan itself is a beacon. Our democratic transition once illuminated our own path through the darkness, and remains a beacon in the night for those who long for democracy," she said, referring to Hong Kong and mainland China.
Tsai said the best way to safeguard Taiwan is to "make itself indispensable and irreplaceable to the world."
She said her government is formulating a strategy to bolster national security in four areas.
First is to "staunchly defend freedom, democracy, and the market economy" at a time when Taiwan is facing threats on the military, diplomatic, social and economic fronts.
Second is to upgrade Taiwan's defense capabilities, including steadily increasing the military spending and enhancing defense self-efficiency.
Thirdly, she said, Taiwan must prevent "foreign powers from infiltrating and subverting our society," an allusion to China's on-going efforts to promote unification through various means.
Fourthly, Taiwan must realign its global trade strategy and keep promoting economic transformation, such as through a program to promote innovative industries of the future and through an eight-year infrastructure project.
Tsai also vowed to continue with reforms, an area she has upset many in the run-up to next month's island-wide local elections, saying there is "no turning back."
Efforts include reforming the pension system, energy policy and "transitional justice" that seeks to redress legacies of human rights abuses committed by the Nationalist Party (KMT) between 1945 and 1992.
The party, now in the opposition, ruled Taiwan for over five decades until 2000, and was again in power from 2008 to 2016.