Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen visited the Army Corps of Engineers on Saturday and inspected its exercises, saying defending democracy is the armed forces’ “great” mission, ahead of a tour next week that will take them to the United States and Central America.
China, which considers Taiwan part of its territory, has stepped up its military and political pressure over the past three years or so to try to force the island to accept Chinese sovereignty over it. Beijing views Tsai as separatist.
Tsai is heading to the United States and Central America for a high-level and sensitive visit that begins on Wednesday. China has criticized the United States for allowing Taiwan’s president to visit, even though Washington is technically only a stopover on her trip.
At the end of the tour, Tsai is expected to meet with Speaker of the US House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles.
China held war games near Taiwan in August after then-Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei.
While visiting a military base in Chiayi, in southern Taiwan, Tsai inspected the exercises, which included setting up anti-tank barriers and practicing martial arts.
“Protecting Taiwan and defending democracy has always been the great task of our military,” she told the soldiers while accompanied by Taiwan’s Defense Minister Qiu Kucheng and Secretary-General of the National Security Council Wellington Kuo.
“I believe that only through continuous training and strengthening of the army’s war readiness can we be better able to protect our homeland and defend our country,” Tsai added.
Tsai has repeatedly offered talks with China, but says Taiwan will defend itself if attacked and that it is up to them to decide the future of the island’s people.