Taiwan poll candidate Hou vows not to ‘sell out’ to China

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Presidential candidate Hou Yu-ih said Thursday he will not “sell out” Taiwan to China, pledging to maintain a strong relationship with “staunch ally” the United States if elected.

Democratic Taiwan is two days from a pivotal election that is being watched from Beijing to Washington, as the next president would determine the island’s future relations with an increasingly assertive Beijing in a flashpoint region.

Hou’s main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party has long encouraged closer ties and cooperation with Beijing, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory.

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has positioned its frontrunner candidate Lai Ching-te as a defender of Taiwan’s democracy, and criticised KMT as being too close with China.

Speaking to foreign media on Thursday, Hou rejected the DPP’s allegation of him being “pro-China and a sell-out of Taiwan”.

“Taiwan is a democratic and free country,” he said, stressing that he did not have “unrealistic ideas” about China’s intentions.

“No matter what China thinks… what the mainstream public opinion in Taiwan wants us to do is to maintain the status quo,” Hou said, adding that the issue of “reunification” will not be on the table if he is elected.

Chinese President Xi Jinping had said in a recent address that unifying Taiwan with China is an “inevitability”.

Beijing has in recent years stepped up military pressures on the island, sending in warplanes and naval vessels around Taiwan’s surroundings.

During her two terms in power, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has boosted defence spending, and buying more weapons from top ally United States.

Hou said if elected, he will “not only increase our purchases… but also strengthen Taiwan-U.S. military cooperation”.

“We will maintain good communications with the United States. We are happy to see the United States playing a positive role in maintaining stability in Taiwan Strait,” he said.

“No matter what happens here, the United States will forever remain a staunch ally of ours.”

The United States said Wednesday it plans to send an unofficial delegation to Taiwan after the election — a move sure to spike tensions with China, but that Hou and his running mate Jaw Shaw-kong said Thursday they “welcome”.

Beijing on Thursday warned voters that an election win by presidential frontrunner Lai — who has previously called himself a “pragmatic worker for Taiwan’s independence — would pose a “severe danger” to cross-strait ties.

“If he comes to power, he will further push for ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist activities (and create) turbulence in the Taiwan Strait,” said China’s Taiwan Affairs Office in a statement.

Elections,

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