After China drills, Taiwan president again offers talks

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan President Lai Ching-te again offered talks with China on Sunday following two days of Chinese war games near the island, saying he looked forward to enhancing mutual understanding and reconciliation.

China, which views democratically-governed Taiwan as its own territory, carried out the military drills on Thursday and Friday, saying it was “punishment” after Lai’s inauguration speech on Monday which Beijing called another push for the island’s formal independence.

China has repeatedly lambasted Lai, saying he is a “separatist”. Lai rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims and says only Taiwan’s people can decide their future. He has repeatedly offered talks but been rebuffed.

Speaking at a meeting of his ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the southern city of Tainan, Lai called on China to “share the heavy responsibility of regional stability with Taiwan”, according to comments provided by his party.

Lai, who won election in January, said he also “looked forward to enhancing mutual understanding and reconciliation with China via exchanges and cooperation, creating mutual benefit and moving towards a position of peace and common prosperity”.

He thanked the United States and other countries for their expressions of concern about the Chinese exercises.

“The international community will not accept any country creating waves in the Taiwan Strait and affecting regional stability,” Lai added.

Taiwan’s government has condemned China’s war games.

Over the past four years, China has staged regular military activities around Taiwan as it seeks to pressure the island’s government.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Sonali Paul)