Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen told Pope Francis in a letter that war with China is “not an option” and said that constructive interaction with Beijing, which claims the island as part of its territory, depends on self-respect and the governance of Taiwan’s democracy.
According to the American Associated Press, the Vatican City is the last European government to establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan, rather than Beijing. Although the United States and other Western countries maintain extensive informal relations, Taiwanese leaders feel uncomfortable about the Vatican’s efforts to develop relations with Beijing.
In the letter released by her office, Tsai expressed support for the Vatican’s positions on Russia’s war against Ukraine, “immigrant-friendly policies” and public health, and noted that we may deeply sympathize with your views.
Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a civil war and have no formal relations but are linked by billions of dollars in trade and investment.
The Chinese Communist Party also regularly flies fighter planes and bombers near Taiwan to enforce its position that the island is obligated to unite with the mainland, by force if necessary.
Tsai referred to Francis’ message on January 1 for the International Day of Peace that the “war virus” must be cured. In a speech on October 10, she quoted herself as rejecting armed conflict across the Taiwan Strait and calling for “peace and stability.”
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In the document “20 Days in Mariupol,” the horrors of war are illuminated, while indicating that armed confrontation is never an option.
“Only by respecting the commitment of the Taiwanese people to our sovereignty, democracy and freedom can there be a basis for resuming constructive interaction across the Taiwan Strait,” Tsai’s message said.
China has stepped up its efforts to pressure the island, including firing missiles into the sea, after then-Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, in August, became the most senior US official to visit the island in 25 years. Lawmakers from Britain and other countries have also visited Taiwan to show support for its elected government.
Taiwan’s former vice president under Tsai-chen Chen Jin represented the island at the funeral this month of former Pope Benedict.