President Tsai Ing-wen (???) urged Beijing, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, to hold talks with her government, saying she is open to meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (???), but without preconditions.
In the interview, Tsai mentioned on several occasions the complex relations Taiwan has with China, which still claims the island as its territory.
Tsai said the two sides should hold talks without any pre-conditions to eliminate misunderstandings.
"It has been a longstanding practice of China to set political preconditions before any meaningful dialogue can be held. I think this is obstructive to the development of our relationship," she said.
Tsai said Taiwan would not cave in to China's ratcheting up of pressure on the island, though she pledged to avoid confrontation and urged Beijing to hold talks with her government.
"I also hope that mainland China does not misinterpret or misjudge the current situation, or think that Taiwanese will bow to such pressure. In a democratic society, this kind of pressure is felt by all," Tsai said. "No administration in Taiwan can make a decision that runs counter to public opinion."
Tsai won a landslide election victory in January that put her pro-independence party in control of the legislature. She took office in May.
In her inauguration speech in May, Tsai did not acknowledge the "1992 consensus" -- a tacit agreement between Taiwan and China that there is one China, with each side maintaining its own interpretation of what "one China" means -- which Beijing has said is the minimum requirement for cross-strait exchanges to continue.
This angered China, which has curtailed official contacts and exchanges with Taipei, exerted pressure on international organizations to exclude Taiwan and reportedly also discouraged mainland Chinese tourists from visiting Taiwan.
In the interview, Tsai recommitted to plans to reduce Taiwan's economic dependence on China, saying the economies of the two nations compete more than complement each other.
However, President Tsai did offer Beijing a chance to reset bilateral relations by holding talks with no preconditions amid a downturn in the island's tourism industry and its exclusion from major international exchanges.
Tsai said both sides should recall her inaugural address when she committed to "maximum flexibility" by maintaining the status quo and respecting the previous administration's understandings with Beijing.
"The pledges we made in the past remain unchanged. Our goodwill is unchanged, but we will not succumb to pressure from China," Tsai said. "We won't revert to the old path of conflict and confrontation,she added.
Tsai also discussed the upcoming U.S. election, tensions over territorial disputes and her views on Hong Kong.
Tsai said she expected relations with the U.S. to remain solid regardless of whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton wins next month's U.S. presidential election.
On the South China Sea, Tsai surprised many governments in the region by standing with Beijing and rejecting the ruling of an international tribunal in July that invalidated most of China's claims to sea and land formations in the area.
Taiwan controls the largest island and on paper its claims mirror those of Beijing. Tsai explained that her government's decision reflected in part a sense of unfairness: the tribunal excluded Taiwan and referred to its government as part of China.
"As a stakeholder, we must be part of the negotiations and be allowed to participate as have other claimants," she said.
When comparing Taiwan's situation to that of the former British colony of Hong Kong now under Chinese rule, Tsai said Taiwan is "a sovereign, independent country" which, like the people of Hong Kong, aspires to "democracy, freedom and human rights."
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel