(Bloomberg) — U.S. officials reiterated their partnership with Taiwan and Democratic candidate Joe Biden advocated stronger relations with the island after President Tsai Ing-wen swept to victory in an election that pressured voters to pick sides in the battle for influence between America and China.
“You are stronger because of your free and open society,” Biden, the former U.S. vice president, said in a tweet congratulating Tsai. “The United States should continue strengthening our ties with Taiwan and other like-minded democracies.”
He followed comments from U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who highlighted the “strong partnership” between the U.S. and Taiwan. “The American people and the people on Taiwan are not just partners—we are members of the same community of democracies, bonded by our shared political, economic, and international values,” Pompeo said in a statement.
The press office of Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a prominent China hawk, tweeted that he “looks forward to strengthening the U.S.-Taiwan relations in years to come.” Todd Young, a fellow Republican Senator from Indiana, tweeted that “democracy has once again prevailed over Communism.”
Tsai declared the world should see Taiwan as a partner, not an issue, after her Democratic Progressive Party won a landslide victory over China-friendly Kuomintang challenger Han Kuo-yu to clinch a second term in elections Saturday. Her party advocates for the democratically-run island’s formal independence, so the results deal a blow to Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s hopes of uniting Taiwan with the mainland.
In a strongly-worded commentary following the vote, China’s official Xinhua news agency said her re-election was “no doubt a development that deeply worries people who hope for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” It added that China has “a full policy toolbox” to curb “Taiwan independence secessionist activities or to benefit Taiwan compatriots.”
Taiwan’s people “don’t want to see a turbulent Taiwan Strait,” Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Communist Party-backed Global Times, said in a tweet Saturday night after it became clear that Tsai’s victory was assured. “She shouldn’t misread the situation.” The China Daily claimed Tsai is pushing a secessionist platform in order to curry favor with the U.S., which it accuses of fomenting Hong Kong’s unrest.
Tsai did not appear to heed those warnings, meeting Sunday with Brent Christensen, director of the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei. She said she hoped to deepen bilateral trade and economic ties and would boost cooperation with the U.S. on a number of global issues. She said the island would increase its self-defense capabilities via that cooperation.
“I believe Taiwan and the U.S. can make more contributions to the world together,” Tsai said during their meeting, according to a statement on the presidential office’s website. Christensen said Taiwan and the U.S. were members of the same democratic community and closely tied via their common values.
Japan, a key U.S. ally in the region, also congratulated Tsai on both the smooth implementation of the democratic election and her victory. Its foreign ministry said that it expects “the issue surrounding Taiwan will be resolved peacefully by direct dialog between the concerned parties and that it will contribute to the peace and stability in the region.”
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