War over Taiwan would result in a “global catastrophe” that China would find difficult to bear, according to William Lai, presidential candidate for Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
China, which considers Taiwan to be its own territory, staged war games around the island this month in response to a meeting in Los Angeles between Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
China said it had tested precision strikes and a blockade of Taiwan, whose government denounced the drills and rejects Beijing’s territorial claims.
Speaking at a campaign event in southern Taiwan’s Tainan, Lai, currently Taiwan’s vice president, said a war would have no winners, something he hoped China properly understood.
“China should clearly realise that once war is launched on Taiwan, Taiwan will admittedly be directly harmed but it will also cause a global catastrophe China will find it hard to bear,” Lai said, according to comments provided by the DPP.
Lai formally became the party’s presidential candidate this week. After two terms in office, Tsai is constitutionally bared from running again in next January’s election.
Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang, or KMT, traditionally favours close ties with China and has repeatedly criticised the DPP for being hostile and antagonistic to Beijing.
The KMT has yet to decide its presidential candidate.
Lai said as China had not renounced the use of force over Taiwan, the island must make ready its defences, but noted nobody wants to “take the initiative to attack China”.
He said he would not abandon any chance at peace, reiterating Tsai’s call for dialogue with China based on equality and respect.
China has rebuffed Tsai’s calls for talks, believing her to be a separatist. Both she and Lai say that only Taiwan’s people can decide the island’s future.
Lai angered China in 2018 while he was premier, telling parliament he was a “Taiwan independence worker” and that his position was that Taiwan was a sovereign, independent country – a red line for Beijing.