By Sarah Wu

TAIPEI (Reuters) -Taiwan’s ruling party presidential candidate Lai Ching-te said on Tuesday he would maintain the status quo if elected, and remain open to engagement with Beijing under the principle of equality and dignity.

Taiwan votes on Saturday for a new president and parliament, in an election that China, which views the island as its own territory despite the strong objections of Taipei’s government, has cast as a choice between war and peace.

Despite this, Lai pledged to try to engage with China, noting dialogue could decrease cross-straits risks, and that peaceful development is in the best interests of both sides.

“Peace is priceless and war has no winners,” Lai told reporters in a press conference in which he appeared alongside his vice presidential running mate Hsiao Bi-khim.

Despite stressing he would continue the policy direction of incumbent president Tsai Ing-wen.

Lai also said if elected, Taiwan would continue to build up its defence deterrence amid geopolitical tensions. Since the last election in 2020, China’s People’s Liberation Army has markedly stepped up military exercises around Taiwan.

Lai told reporters the election will serve as a “testament to our commitment to democracy” while also noting that China’s alleged interference in this election has been the “most intense” yet.

Taiwan has cited military and economic pressure and fake news from China as evidence of its attempt to interfere in the election and said it was documenting it and will publish its analysis soon after the vote.

(Writing by James Pomfret; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Michael Perry)

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