Taiwan new President Lai Ching-te takes office amid tensions with China

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Taiwan's new president, Lai Ching-te, was sworn in on Monday, amid rising tensions with China which is deeply suspicious of the current leadership

Sam Yeh | Afp | Getty Images

Taiwan's new president, Lai Ching-te, was sworn in on Monday, amid rising tensions with China which is deeply suspicious of the current leadership and has previously referred to the incoming leader as a "stubborn worker" for the island's independence.

Lai takes over from his predecessor Tsai Ing-wen after securing a victory in January's election that ushered in an unprecedented third presidential term for the Democratic Progressive Party.

Together with Lai, Hsiao Bi-khim, 52, a former de facto Taiwan ambassador to the United States, was also sworn in as vice president.

Lai is widely expected to reaffirm the status quo in cross-strait relations with China.

He earlier pledged commitment to Tsai's foreign and defense policies of strengthening the island's ties with the United States and its allies as well as boosting defense capabilities.

Taiwan's new President Lai Ching-te has been sworn in

Beijing considers democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and Chinese President Xi Jinping regards reunification with the mainland "a historical inevitability."

China has repeatedly denounced Lai as a "stubborn worker for Taiwan independence" and a dangerous separatist. In recent weeks, Beijing has increased military incursions around the island ahead of the Lai's inauguration, according to Reuters.

This has been a thorny issue in Beijing's complex relationship with the U.S., which does not support Taiwan independence but has called for cross-Strait differences to be resolved peacefully, "in a manner that is acceptable to the people on both sides of the Strait."

Xi told his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden on the sidelines of the APEC leaders summit in November that Taiwan has always been the "most important and sensitive" issue in China-U.S. relations.

While Lai won the presidency in January, the DPP lost its majority in the legislature and only has a narrow mandate.  

Kuomintang or KMT, Beijing's preferred political partner, has more seats than the DPP but not enough to have a majority on its own. 

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