TAIPEI (Reuters) -The leading candidate to be Taiwan’s new president, Vice President William Lai, said in an interview on Tuesday that he has no plans to change the island’s formal name, but reiterated that Taiwan is “not subordinate” to China.
Beijing dislikes of Lai for previous comments saying he is a “practical worker for Taiwan independence” – a red line for China, which views the democratically governed island as part of its territory.
Lai has repeatedly said that he is not seeking to change the status quo and that he is simply stating a fact: that Taiwan is already an independent country called the Republic of China, its formal name, and that only Taiwan’s people can decide their future.
“We must abide by the truth – which is what I mean by pragmatism – which is Taiwan is already a sovereign, independent country called the Republic of China. It is not part of the People’s Republic of China,” he said in an interview with the Bloomberg news agency. “The ROC and PRC are not subordinate to one another. It is not necessary to declare independence. The ROC (Taiwan) is not subordinate to the PRC.”
The defeated Republic of China government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with Mao Zedong’s communists, who established the People’s Republic of China.
“The current name, according to our constitution, is the Republic of China,” Lai said, according to a transcript published by his campaign team.
“And in respect to unifying Taiwanese society, President Tsai has used the term Republic of China (Taiwan) to describe our country. I will continue to do so in the future,” he added. “There are no plans to change the name of our country.”
Taiwan goes votes on its new president in January. President Tsai Ing-wen cannot run again after serving two terms in office.
Tsai has repeatedly offered talks with China, which Beijing has rebuffed, and Lai said the door to dialogue is always open as long as there is “parity and dignity”.
“We don’t want to be enemies; we can be friends. And we would love to see China enjoy democracy and freedom – just like us,” he said. “However, until China renounces the use of force against Taiwan, we must strengthen our military capacity.”
Lai is in Paraguay for the inauguration of that country’s new president. Paraguay is one of only 13 nations to maintain formal ties with Taipei.
He transited through New York on his way there, drawing anger from China, which said he was both a separatist and “trouble maker”, and is due back in Taipei on Friday after stopping over in San Francisco.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard. Editing by Gerry Doyle)