Chinese president uses threats to urge Taiwan to unify with mainland China

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"Taiwan will never accept the "one China, two systems" formula, and the vast majority of Taiwan's people are firmly opposed to the approach designed by Beijing", she said, noting that a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) earlier in the day proved that "Taiwan's misgivings are correct".

President Xi thundered against past efforts in Taiwan to become legally independent of China and said the two sides should pursue a "one country-two systems" model of unification that his government applied to Hong Kong in 1997.

"We make no promise to abandon the use of force, and retain the option of taking all necessary measures".

In January 1979, Beijing declared an end to what had been routine artillery bombardment of Taiwan-controlled offshore islands close to China and offered to open up communications between the two sides, after decades of hostility.

The Chinese president's urging for the two to come to the table came during a speech marking the 40th anniversary of the "Message of Compatriots in Tawain" when, on January 1, 1979, China offered to open up communications and stop military action against the island. China has cut direct talks with Taipei, stripped Taiwan of its diplomatic allies and flown bombers and dispatched navy vessels around the island in displays of force.

"China must and will be united", said Xi in reference to unification with Taiwan, AFP reports.

President Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan island would not accept a "one country, two systems" political arrangement with China, while stressing all cross-strait negotiations needed to be on a government-to-government basis.

Xi's speech also gives us a hint about what we can expect from Beijing this year in terms of its Taiwan policy. He said independence for the self-governing island is against history and a dead end.

Tsai said Taiwan is willing to talk, but it must be with the approval of the Taiwanese people.

She said, "China must face the fact of the existence of Taiwan, Republic of China, and not deny the system of a democratic country that has been commonly built up by the Taiwanese people".

These "musts", she said, form the "most basic and most key foundation for the positive development of relations between Taiwan and China". Hong Kong has also banned an independence party, calling it a threat to national security, in a move widely seen as bending to Chinese dictates.

Xi said that he plans to explore a Taiwanese version of the "one country, two systems" framework, which would ensure that Taiwanese's social system, way of life, personal property, religious beliefs and legal rights are fully respected and protected.

Despite much publicity over 152 missing Vietnamese tourists, Taipei's efforts to replace the decline in tourist arrivals from the mainland have apparently paid off. Arguably, an additional 1 or 2 million tourists might have arrived had it not been for Beijing's discouragement, although a major push to attract other visitors might not have been implemented.

Taiwan's leader rejected Xi's call just hours later.

Beijing has adopted a multi-pronged approach to diminish Taiwan's presence on the worldwide stage in recent years, including blocking it from global forums and poaching its dwindling number of official diplomatic allies.

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