Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan's incumbent president who was re-elected in January, has been sworn into office for a second four-year term.
In his inaugural speech at Taipei's presidential palace on Sunday, Ma, a member of the Nationalist Party (KMT), vowed to improve economic and political ties with China and pursue free trade agreements with other countries.
He promised to improve cross-strait relations without compromising the island's sovereignty.
"Our cross-strait policy must maintain the status quo of no unification, no independence and no use of force," he said.
He also added that he would promote peaceful cross-strait development on the basis of the 1992 consensus, an agreement that recognises Taiwan as a sovereign region within the "One China" principle.
Ma, 62, also said that Taiwan would continue to strengthen its national defence forces in the face of China's growing military power.
"Over the next four years, we shall continue to purchase weapons of a defensive nature that we cannot manufacture ourselves, and shall complete the transition to a volunteer armed force.
"And, with a rock solid defence and effective deterrence military strategy and innovative and asymmetrical thinking, we shall establish a streamlined yet professional and sturdy national defence force," he said.
Greeted with dissent
Ma's inauguration was protested by about 1,500 people gathered near the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) headquarters in Taipei. Hundreds of the protesters pelted eggs at a portrait of the head of state.
Ma has come under fire over a recent series of moves including "double hikes" in fuel and electricity prices amid a slowing economy and rising inflation. He has also been criticised for policies which opponents of any rapprochement with Beijing see as overly friendly.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest the rising living costs under Ma's government.
A government plan to allow imports of US beef treated with a growth hormone also triggered protests by local farmers.
"He is a dictator. He is an authoritative president. He lied to us four years ago and now there are problems with ractopamine plus the price of everything is going up. I want him to step down," said Mr. Lai, a cosmetics retailer in Taipei.
"I am the most unsatisfied about his 'one country two system' approach towards China. We are unhappy because Taiwan is a sovereign country. Now he is too close to China and we are very unhappy. For us, having a sovereign country that will soon be unified by China is terrifying," said Liu Yi-yuan, a 61-year-old architect .
Ma's popularity with Taiwanese residents has fallen from 66 to 23 per cent since he was first inaugurated as president in 2008, the latest poll released by the United Daily News, a local newspaper, showed.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|