Former British Prime Minister Liz Truss called on democratic countries around the world to support Taiwan, which has been facing pressure from China, as she met with the island's leader Tsai Ing-wen on Friday.

"What has been achieved here in Taiwan must be protected. And the international community and international free democracies must support you in your endeavors," Truss told Tsai at the presidential office in Taipei, also noting there has been "an increasing struggle between democracies and autocracies."

The former British leader is on a five-day visit to the island through Saturday. Thanking Truss for her support, Tsai said that by acting in solidarity, democracies around the globe can increase their strength.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (R) and former British Prime Minister Liz Truss shake hands at the presidential office in Taipei on May 19, 2023. (Photo courtesy of the presidential office)(Kyodo)

"This will allow us to extend and broaden the reach of our values of freedom and democracy," the president said. Taiwan will "walk shoulder to shoulder" with Britain along the path of freedom and democracy "as we seek to make even greater contributions to prosperity around the world," Tsai added.

On the economic front, Truss expressed her desire to "see the development of an economic NATO" where like-minded countries can work together "to challenge coercion by authoritarian regimes."

Britain is "very clear" that peace and stability need to be maintained in the Taiwan Strait, Truss said.

Taiwan is a major producer of advanced semiconductors and is a chip industry powerhouse. China considers the self-ruled democratic island part of its territory and has indicated it seeks to reunify it with the mainland by force if necessary.

Tsai said Taiwan and Britain have enjoyed fruitful cooperation across a range of sectors in recent years, adding that she hopes for further collaboration and exchanges in supply chain resilience and cybersecurity, as well as in emerging scientific and technological fields.

China criticized Truss's Taiwan visit by saying the shortest-serving prime minister in British history is using Taiwan to grab attention for her own selfish political interests.

Truss resigned over a political crisis caused by her economic plans after a stint of some 40 days in office last year.

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