Taiwan presidential hopeful eyes closer ties with Europe

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Europe should deepen exchanges on peace and security as well as trade with Taiwan, the frontrunner in the island’s upcoming presidential election said Tuesday.

William Lai, of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, also called on China to play its role in ensuring stability in the Taiwan Strait, as Beijing continues to cast Lai as the candidate who would lead Taiwan into war. Lai again ruled out any plan to declare independence if he’s elected, satisfying a key U.S. demand against upsetting the status quo unilaterally.

“Peace is priceless and there’ll be no winner in the event of war. Peace is the only option,” Lai said during an international press conference. “As long as there’s reciprocity and dignity, Taiwan will always open its door, willing to conduct exchanges and cooperation with China.”

Asked about Europe’s lack of active participation in ensuring Taiwan’s security, Lai said: “Taiwan and Europe may be far apart geographically, but we both share common values such as democracy, freedom and human rights.”

“Taiwan also looks forward to working together with Europe on peace in the Indo-Pacific region,” Lai added. “I’d like to use this opportunity to thank European countries for expressing … opposition to changes to Taiwan Strait status quo through military means by authoritarian countries.”

Such remarks by European countries, he said, “are enormously conducive to Taiwan’s security.”

The European Commission has been reluctant to launch talks toward a bilateral investment agreement with Taipei, due to fear of Beijing’s retaliation.

Lai, without addressing directly the EU’s trade policy, said he would seek further economic engagement with Europe, as Taiwan continues to diversify its economy away from reliance on China.

“I will tell European leaders that Taiwan is most happy to deepen [exchanges] on values, economic and trade ties, and climate change with European countries,” he said, calling Europe’s tech industry “world-leading.”

Lai, Taiwan’s current vice president who is seeking to succeed the outgoing Tsai Ing-wen, is facing an uphill electoral battle. He’s got stiff competition from the traditionally China-friendly Kuomintang, led by Hou Yu-ih, as well as the new Taiwan People’s Party, whose candidate Ko Wen-je is popular among the youth.

“If the opposition party wins under China’s threat and interference, there’s no way China will change its current approach to Taiwan or the Indo-Pacific,” Lai said.

This article was originally published by a www.politico.eu . Read the Original article here. .