Taiwan wants dialogue with Beijing but cannot accept its proposal for "one country, two systems", President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday, calling for both sides to find a way to coexist.
In a speech after being sworn in for her second and final term in office, Tsai said relations between Taiwan and the mainland had reached an historical turning point.
"Both sides have a duty to find a way to coexist over the long term and prevent the intensification of antagonism and differences," she said.
Tsai, from the Democratic Progressive Party, won January's presidential election by a landslide, vowing to stand up to Beijing.
"Here, I want to reiterate the words 'peace, parity, democracy, and dialogue'. We will not accept the Beijing authorities' use of 'one country, two systems' to downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo. We stand fast by this principle," Tsai said.
Beijing has stepped up its military drills near Taiwan since Tsai's re-election, flying fighter jets into the island's air space and sailing warships around Taiwan.
Tsai said Taiwan has made the greatest effort to maintain peace and stability in the narrow Taiwan Strait that separates the democratic island from its autocratic neighbour.
"We will continue these efforts, and we are willing to engage in dialogue with China and make more concrete contributions to regional security," she added, speaking in the garden of the old Japanese governor's house in Taipei, in front of a socially-distanced audience of officials and diplomats.
Tsai said that Taiwan will continue its fight to participate in international organisations, and "bolster ties with the United States, Japan, Europe, and other like-minded countries".
Taiwan has accused Beijing of exerting pressure to keep Taiwan out of the World Health Organisation.
The Trump administration has strongly backed Taiwan, becoming another source of tension between Washington and Beijing.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent his congratulations to Tsai on Tuesday, praising her "courage and vision in leading Taiwan's vibrant democracy", in a rare high-level message from Washington direct to Taiwan's government.
In a statement, the Taiwan Affairs Office in Beijing said "reunification" of Taiwan with the mainland is the natural trend of history and efforts to seek independence for the island are a dead-end.
Spokesman Ma Xiaoguang said in a statement that China will never leave any room for various forms of "Taiwan independence" or tolerate any act of separating Taiwan from China, the official Xinhua news agency reported. (Reuters)
Last updated: 2020-05-20 HKT 14:25