TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan's policy of maintaining the status quo with China won't change despite a drubbing at local elections for the ruling party, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Friday, adding democracy was the biggest difference with China.
The pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) suffered a serious set-back at the Saturday polls, loosing key cities in mayoral elections to the China-friendly Kuomintang, including the former DPP stronghold of Kaohsiung in the south.
China has heaped pressure on Tsai since she took office in 2016, believing she wishes to push for the island's formal independence, a red line for Beijing which claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own.
Meeting a delegation from the U.S.-based National Committee on American Foreign Policy, Tsai reiterated that her China policy would not change, and that people were voting on local issues rather than on ties across the Taiwan Strait.
"We basically do not believe that in this local election people made a choice on the cross-strait policy issue or made a major change," Tsai said, in comments carried live on her Facebook page.
"So our policy on maintaining the status quo will remain unchanged," she added.
"While the DPP's performance left us disappointed, democratic elections are our most cherished asset and our greatest difference with China."
Beijing has barely contained its glee at the election result, saying it showed Taiwan's people's desire for better ties with China.
Tsai said there were challenges in the election, including fake news exacerbated by "outside forces" - a reference to China - something she said any democracy faces.
Tsai faces re-election in a little over a year's time at Taiwan's next presidential vote.
(Reporting by Yimou Lee; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)