Peace in Taiwan Strait benefits whole world, Taiwan president says

By Fabian Hamacher and Ann Wang

TAICHUNG, Taiwan (Reuters) - Peace in the Taiwan Strait benefits the whole world and the international community believes that without it, there can be neither prosperity nor security, Taiwan President Lai Ching-te said on Friday.

China, which views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, has ramped up its pressure against Lai, whom it views as a "separatist", and staged two days of war games around the island after he took office last month.

Over the past four years, China's military has massively increased its activities in the narrow strait, a major international waterway for trade, and regularly flies warplanes there and operates warships.

Speaking to new recruits at an army base in the central Taiwanese city of Taichung, Lai said every drop of their sweat was to protect Taiwan's security.

"The international community believes these days that peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is a necessary component for global security and prosperity," he said.

"No matter whether it's the United States, Japan, South Korea or the European Union, and the heads of state or prime ministers of many nations, they all agree on this point, opposing any country using force to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait," Lai added.

"Our efforts are all for the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait, for Taiwan's security, and our democratic, free system and continued economic development," he said. "Peace in the Taiwan Strait benefits global peace."

Taiwan stages its annual Han Kuang military drills next month which this year will be as close as possible to actual combat given what officials view as the rising threat from China.

Over the past week, Taiwan has reported detecting a total of 203 Chinese military aircraft operating nearby, getting as close as 31 nautical miles (57 km) to the island according to details provided by Taiwan's defence ministry.

China last week threatened to prosecute those deemed "diehard" Taiwan independence supporters, and execute people in the most serious cases, prompting Taiwan to warn its citizens to avoid the country.

Lai has repeatedly offered talks with China but been rebuffed. He rejects Beijing's sovereignty claims and says only Taiwan's people can decide their future.

(Reporting by Fabian Hamacher and Ann Wang; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)