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Taiwan’s President Tells Vatican War with China ‘Not an Option’

FILE - Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen leaves a news conference in Taipei, Taiwan, Dec. 27, 2022.

President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan has told Pope Francis that peaceful relations with China will only occur when Beijing respects the island’s sovereignty.

In a letter to the pontiff released by her office on Monday, President Tsai said Russia’s nearly one-year old invasion of Ukraine has underscored the need to seek peace and preserve regional security.

She told the pope that armed conflict with China “is absolutely not an option,” a point she made in her annual National Day speech last October. Tsai also said that “peace and stability” across the Taiwan Strait are the basis for developing bilateral relations with Beijing.

“Only by respecting the commitment of the Taiwanese people to our sovereignty, democracy and freedom can there be a foundation for resuming constructive interaction” Tsai said in the letter, sent in response to the pope’s annual World Day of Peace message on New Year’s Day.

Beijing considers the democratically-ruled island part of its territory, even though it has been self-governing since the end of China’s civil war in 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces were driven off the mainland by Mao Zedong’s Communists. China has vowed to bring the island under its control by any means necessary, including a military takeover.

China has stepped up diplomatic pressure on countries to get them to cut ties with Taiwan.

The Vatican is one of only 14 states — and the only one in Europe — that have maintained formal ties with Taipei, although Pope Francis has moved to improve relations with Beijing.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.