TAIPEI/BEIJING: Taiwan's defence ministry warned China of strong countermeasures on Wednesday (Oct 13) if its forces got too close to the island, as Beijing defended its incursions into Taiwan's air defence zone as "just" moves to protect peace and stability.
Military tensions with China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, are at their worst in more than 40 years, Taiwan's defence minister said last week, adding China will be capable of mounting a "full scale" invasion by 2025.
He was speaking after China mounted four straight days of mass air force incursions into Taiwan's air defence identification zone that began on Oct 1, part of a pattern of what Taipei views as stepped up military harassment by Beijing.
No shots have been fired and China's aircraft have stayed well away from Taiwan's airspace, concentrating their activities in the south-western corner of Taiwan's air defence zone.
In a report to parliament, Taiwan's defence ministry said their forces will adhere to the principle of "the closer they are to the island, the stronger the countermeasures", though it gave no details.
The ministry expressed concern again about China's growing prowess, with new aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered submarines and amphibious assault ships coming into service.
China's capabilities in denying access and blockading the Taiwan Strait "are becoming more and more complete, which will pose serious challenges and threats to our defence operations", it added.
China blames Taiwan, and its most important international backer the United States, for the tensions, a point Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, made again in Beijing, pointing the finger at Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP).
Chinese drills are aimed at "collusion" with foreign forces - a veiled reference to US support for Taiwan - and separatist activities, protecting the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, he added.
"They are absolutely just actions," Ma said.
"The DPP authorities' hyping of the so-called 'military threat' of the mainland is to completely invert right and wrong, and a bogus accusation," he added.
"If the DPP authorities obstinately persist in going about things the wrong way, and do not know how to draw back from the edge, it will only push Taiwan into a more dangerous situation."
Taiwan says it is an independent country called the Republic of China, its formal name, and will defend its freedom and democracy.
Despite Ma's comments, both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen made relatively conciliatory speeches at the weekend, even as Xi vowed to bring Taiwan under its control and Tsai said they would not be forced to bow to China.
Xi did not mention resorting to force over Taiwan, while Tsai reiterated a desire for peace and dialogue with China.
Tsai, speaking at a regular party meeting on Wednesday, reiterated that the government has never "slacked off" when presented with China's military threats but has also never "advanced rashly".
"I also want to repeat that we will never succumb to pressure," she added.