taiwan Tsai Ing-wen .jpg
Photograph: EPA/RITCHIE B. TONGO

Taiwan's new President Tsai Ing-wen was inaugurated Friday, vowing to solve the island's social and economic problems, and to maintain existing dialogue mechanisms with Beijing.

"Taiwan faces a difficult situation," she told the tens of thousands gathered outside the Presidential Office Building, including more than 1,000 foreign and domestic dignitaries.

She enumerated many domestic problems including the nearly bankrupt pension system, rigid educational system, limited energy and other resources, a flagging economy, the ageing population, health-care problems, pollution, food safety, and judicial reform.

"I will tackle this country's problems step by step, starting with the basic structure," she said. "Please give us some time."

Tsai's swearing in was followed by military displays and a song-and-dance performance depicting the island's history in the past 400 years, from the aboriginal cultures, to the colonization by Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands and Japan, to the end of World War II, when Chiang Kai-shek's Chinese Nationalist forces fled from China.

Taiwan's first female president assumes office with an unprecedented parliamentary majority for her party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), after eight years of rule led by the China-friendly Nationalist Party (KMT) ended with the January elections.

The DPP criticized former president Ma Ying-jeou for pursuing a closer relationship with Beijing. Tsai herself has refused to endorse the "one China" principle advocated by Beijing and Ma's government.

In her inaugural address Tsai vowed to "work to maintain the existing mechanisms for dialogue and communication across the Taiwan Strait," omitting any reference to "one China," despite earlier calls from Beijing to mention the principle in the speech.

The principle came out of a 1992 meeting when the two sides agreed that there is only one China, but each left the other to decide for itself what exactly this meant.

The DPP acknowledges that the 1992 meeting happened but does not recognize the principle it concluded.

"The two governing parties across the Strait must set aside the baggage of history, and engage in positive dialogue, for the benefit of the people on both sides," Tsai said Friday.

China dismissed Tsai's remarks on bilateral relations as "an incomplete answer sheet."

Her inaugural speech was "ambiguous on the fundamental issue of the nature of cross-Straits relations, an issue that is of utmost concern to people on both sides," Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office was quoted as saying later Friday by state-run Xinhua news agency.

"There was no explicit recognition of the 1992 Consensus and its core implications, and no proposal of concrete ways to ensure the peaceful and stable development of cross-Straits relations."

Mainland China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since the end of a civil war in 1949. Chinese President Xi Jinping in January pledged to stop any moves toward formal independence for Taiwan following the election.

The United States and Japan both welcomed the new government, although neither has formal diplomatic ties with the administration, as both officially recognize the government of Beijing.

"We look forward to working with the new administration, as well as with all of Taiwan's political parties and civil society groups," said the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto diplomatic mission.

"Our country regards Taiwan as an important partner and friend which shares basic values, close economic ties and frequent travel of people," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference in Tokyo.

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