Taiwan wants to prevent military conflict but will "spare no effort" to defend itself, said Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, as the island strives to develop a long-range missile capable of striking Beijing.
On Friday, days after the People's Liberation Army's sent scores of its largest warplanes to patrol near the island, Tsai said Taiwan was seeking to strengthen its ties with the United States, Australia, India and Japan - the so-called Quad pact - and Asean nations.
"Taiwan does not seek military confrontation," Tsai told a security forum in Taipei. "It hopes for a peaceful, stable, predictable and mutually beneficial coexistence with its neighbours. But Taiwan will also do whatever it takes to defend its freedom and democratic way of life."
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Earlier this week, Taiwanese Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng confirmed the development of the island's long-range cruise missile Yun Feng (Cloud Peak) at a legislature session.
On whether Taiwan had succeeded in developing the much-reported missile, Chiu said Taiwan was "working hard on it".
The Yu Feng is expected to have a range of 1,200km (745 miles), putting inland areas of the mainland within striking distance.
"Defence operations of Taiwan and Penghu (islands) emphasise 'defence', for which this capability (missile) is needed," Chiu said. "Like in a fight, it is better to have both long spears to attack from a distance and short daggers for close combat."
But during Wednesday's session Chiu declined to reveal details about this "long spear" against Beijing.
The supersonic cruise missile project began as early as the 1990s and was made public in 2012. It is reportedly designed to travel at up to three times the speed of sound and could reach much of the Chinese inland.
Taiwan largely relies on imported weapons from the US and elsewhere, but it has also stepped up its arms development, including building indigenous warships and submarines, during heightened military tension across the Taiwan Strait.
Taiwanese armed forces have equipped themselves with locally made missiles, including the air-defence Tien Kung III (Sky Bow III), and anti-ship Hsiung Feng III (Brave Wind III).
Beijing, which considers Taiwan its territory and vows to take it under control, by force if necessary, has stepped up military intimidation against the island by sending 150 warplanes, including fighter jets and bombers, to the island's air defence identification zone (ADIZ) since Friday.
The PLA has sent warplanes to harass the island almost every day in the past year, but in recent days it has also sent warplanes at night.
In the speech Tsai stressed a shift in Taiwan's trade and investment focus from the mainland to the countries marked out by the New Southbound Policy, such as members of Asean, India, Australia and Pacific islands.
Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott was among the attendees, whom Tsai praised as having "fearlessly resisted the coercion from an authoritarian state", referring to Australia's diplomatic row with China.
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