US, Taiwan should sign FTA, Ted Cruz tells Tsai Ing-wen

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen delivers a speech during National Day celebrations in front of the Presidential Building in Taipei Taiwan Thursday Oct. 10 2019

"As the strategic forefront of the Indo-Pacific region, Taiwan has become the first line of defense for democratic values".

Nevertheless, China is still threatening to impose its "one country, two systems model for Taiwan". "Rejection of "one country, two systems" is the biggest consensus among Taiwan's 23 million people across parties and positions". While a headache to Beijing, the political crisis in Hong Kong has turned into a blessing for Tsai and her prospects in the coming presidential elections. A slogan of "Hong Kong today, Taiwan tomorrow" is trending online, showing public opposition to China's planned "one country, two systems" arrangement for eventual unification with Taiwan. Taiwan has lost seven diplomatic allies over the past three years, including Kiribati and Solomon islands in September ahead of China's National Day on October 1.

Tsai - who hails from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party - has angered China by refusing to accept the so-called 1992 consensus that both sides belong to "one China".

"An increasing number of voters have already made their decision, as evidenced by President Tsai's growing lead in the polls", he told Al Jazeera, referring to Tsai's lead over her opponent Han Kuo-yu of the KMT.

After she was elected in 2016, Cruz issued a statement praising Taiwan as the "exemplar of liberty and the best hope for peace in East Asia", Tsai said.

China has proposed that Taiwan be brought under Chinese rule under a similar arrangement, but Tsai said Beijing's policies towards the island were a danger to regional stability.

The Republic of China has stood tall on Taiwan for over 70 years.

Sanders said that while Trump had taken a hard line against Beijing on trade, he had also sought to strengthen U.S. relations with allies across Asia including Taiwan since taking office, and the signing of the Taiwan Travel Act, the sale of F-16V fighter jets, combat tanks and missiles, plus ever closer military exchanges between the U.S. and Taiwan were all proof of a concrete partnership. A record low of 15 countries now recognize the government in Taipei. Beijing has steadily increased diplomatic, military and economic pressure on Taipei over the past two years in a bid to force Tsai to the bargaining table.

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Beijing also says Taiwan does not have the right to state-to-state relations and is keen to isolate it diplomatically. But following U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's blistering broadside against China in October a year ago, the Taiwanese leader has also ramped up the rhetoric.

Other key figures attending the Yushan Forum who met with Tsai included former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and chief of the American Institute in Taiwan Brent Christensen. As trade tensions built up between the US and China, she said Beijing was a source of conflict.

"We are witnessing China's rise and expansion, as they challenge free, democratic values and the global order through a combination of authoritarianism, nationalism, and economic might", Tsai said.

"The determination of the Taiwanese people to embrace the world has never wavered", she said, adding that Taiwan must work with "like-minded countries" to ensure peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. This year alone, U.S. President Donald Trump's administration has approved two major arms sales to Taiwan.

Tsai welcomed Cruz and said that he was the first USA senator to take part in the national day ceremony for 35 years.

She also thanked Cruz for speaking up for Taiwan in the worldwide community. "The Chinese communist government is terrified that people will see, how come the people in Taiwan enjoy freedom and democracy, and we don't".

So while it is hardly new that the People's Republic considers Taiwan as part of its territory and insists on leaving open the use force should peaceful reunification prove impossible, the timing is important.

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