New Taiwanese President Calls on China to Stop Its Threats

Taiwan's new President William Lai Ching-te (right) waves alongside outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen during the inauguration ceremony (Sam Yeh/ AFP)
Taiwan's new President William Lai Ching-te (right) waves alongside outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen during the inauguration ceremony (Sam Yeh/ AFP)
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New Taiwanese President Calls on China to Stop Its Threats

Taiwan's new President William Lai Ching-te (right) waves alongside outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen during the inauguration ceremony (Sam Yeh/ AFP)
Taiwan's new President William Lai Ching-te (right) waves alongside outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen during the inauguration ceremony (Sam Yeh/ AFP)

Taiwan President Lai Ching-te asked China on Monday to stop its military and political threats, saying in his inauguration speech that peace is the only choice and that Beijing had to respect the choice of the Taiwanese people.
Lai, addressing the crowd outside the Japanese-colonial-era presidential office in central Taipei, repeated a call for talks with China, which views the proudly democratic island as its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under Beijing's control, Reuters said.
"I also want to urge China to stop intimidating Taiwan politically and militarily, and to take on the global responsibility with Taiwan to work hard on maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the region, to ensure the world is without the fear of war breaking out," he said. "We also want to declare this to the world: Taiwan makes no concessions on democracy and freedom. Peace is the only option and prosperity is our goal for long-term peace and stability."
There was no immediate reaction from China, which repeatedly called Lai a "separatist" risking war in the run-up to his election in January.
Taiwan has faced pressure from China, including regular air force and navy activities near the island, since the election victory by Lai, 64, who is widely known by his English name, William.
Lai, who took over from Tsai Ing-wen having served as her vice president for the past four years, said people must be realistic about the threat and Taiwan must show its determination to defend itself.
"Fellow citizens, we have the ideal to pursue peace, but we must not have illusions," he said. "Before China gives up using force to invade Taiwan, citizens must understand this: Even if we accept all of China's claims and give up our sovereignty, China's ambition to annex Taiwan will not disappear."
Lai received loud applause after reiterating that the Republic of China - Taiwan's formal name - and the People's Republic of China are "not subordinate to each other", a line Tsai also took.
Taiwan's defense ministry, in its daily report on Monday about Chinese military activities in the previous 24 hours, said six Chinese aircraft had crossed the Taiwan Strait's median line, which previously served as an unofficial boundary but that China says it does not recognise.
At least one of the aircraft got within 43 nautical miles (80 km) of the northern Taiwanese port city of Keelung, according to a map provided by the ministry.
In attendance at the ceremony are former US officials dispatched by President Joe Biden, lawmakers from countries including Japan, Germany and Canada, and leaders from some of the 12 countries that still maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, such as Paraguay President Santiago Pena.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken congratulated Lai, saying the United States looked forward to working with him "to advance our shared interests and values, deepen our longstanding unofficial relationship, and maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait".
FIGHTER JETS AND SING-ALONGS
Taiwanese fighter jets flew in formation over Taipei after Lai's speech.
At the end of the ceremony, Lai and Vice President Hsiao Bi-khim, formerly Taiwan's de facto ambassador to the United States, led the crowd in a sing-along to pop songs as they danced onstage with the other performers.
Lai wore a purple tie, representing a butterfly native to Taiwan, and a yellow pin on his lapel of mustard flowers, a common plant in fields across the island.
He received seals symbolizing his presidential power from the parliament speaker, including the seal of Republic of China and the seal of honor, both brought to Taiwan after the Republican government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the Chinese civil war to Mao Zedong's Communists.
Late Sunday, widely read state-backed Chinese newspaper the Global Times said Lai could become "more and more provocative" once he takes office.
"So in the long term, the state of cross-straits relations will not be optimistic," it said in an online commentary.
Lai's domestic challenges loom large too, given his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lost its parliamentary majority in the January election.
On Friday, lawmakers punched, shoved and screamed at each other in a bitter dispute over parliamentary reforms the opposition is pushing. There could be more fighting on Tuesday when lawmakers resume their discussions.



Iran Presidential Hopefuls Debate Economy Ahead of Election

Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
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Iran Presidential Hopefuls Debate Economy Ahead of Election

Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters

The six candidates vying to succeed ultraconservative president Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash, focused on revitalizing Iran's sanctions-hit economy in their first debate ahead of next week's election.

The contenders -- five conservatives and a sole reformer -- faced off in a four-hour live debate, vowing to address the financial challenges affecting the country's 85 million people.

Originally slated for 2025, the election was moved forward after Raisi's death on May 19 in a helicopter crash in northern Iran.

Long before the June 28 election, Iran had been grappling with mounting economic pressures, including international sanctions and soaring inflation.

"We will strengthen the economy so that the government can pay salaries according to inflation and maintain their purchasing power," conservative presidential hopeful Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said.

Ghalibaf, Iran's parliament speaker, also pledged to work towards removing crippling US sanctions reimposed after then US president Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran's economy grew by 5.7 percent in the year to March 2024, with authorities targeting a further eight percent growth this year, driven by hydrocarbon exports.

The sole reformist candidate, Massoud Pezeshkian, said he would seek to build regional and global relations to achieve this growth.

He also called for easing internet restrictions in the country where Facebook, Instagram, Telegram and X are among the social media platforms banned.

Reformists, whose political influence has waned in the years since the 1979 revolution, have fallen in behind Pezeshkian after other moderate hopefuls were barred from standing.

Ultraconservative former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, however, said Iran did not need to repair its relations with the West.

He took aim at Trump, saying his policy of "maximum pressure" against Iran had "failed miserably".

- 'Maximum pressure' -

In the absence of opinion polls, Ghalibaf, Jalili and Pezeshkian are seen as the frontrunners for Iran's second highest-ranking job.

Ultimate authority in the state is wielded by the supreme leader rather the president with 85-year-old Ali Khamenei holding the post for 35 years.

Incumbent Vice President Amirhossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi said during the debate he would seek to lower inflation following a "political leadership style similar to that of Martyr Raisi."

Raisi easily won Iran's 2021 election in which no reformist or moderate figures were allowed to run. Backed by Khamenei he had been tipped to possibly replace the supreme leader.

Iran’s relations with the West continued to suffer, particularly following the outbreak of the October 7 Gaza war.

Tehran's support for the Palestinian armed group Hamas, coupled with ongoing diplomatic tensions over Iran's nuclear program have hastened the decline.

Mostafa Pourmohammadi, the only cleric in the running, blamed international sanctions for "blocking the economy" and "making financial transactions impossible".

Tehran's conservative mayor, Alireza Zakani, said the US sanctions were "cruel" but were not the main problem behind Iran's economic hardship.

"We should emphasize the economic independence of the country, de-dollarize the economy and rely on our own national currency," he said.