Taiwan presidential candidates clash over China policy in first debate

The front-runner in Taiwan's presidential race says she'll seek dialogue and stable relations with mainland China, but is leaving open the possibility of re-evaluating the island's official stance on independence.

Tsai Ing-wen, the opposition leader who has firmly held onto a sizeable lead in polls ahead of the Jan. 16 elections, said Sunday in the first televised debate that if elected, she would not immediately overturn Taiwan's current state of relations with Beijing, which have improved in recent years under the ruling Nationalist Party, or KMT.

The election is been closely watched by Washington and Beijing, which considers Taiwan a breakaway province and has threatened to take the island by force if it declares independence.