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China toughens language, warns Taiwan that independence 'means war'

China toughens language, warns Taiwan that independence 'means war'

A military honour guard holds a Taiwanese flag as he attends a flag-raising ceremony at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, in Taipei, Taiwan on Mar 16, 2018. (Photo: Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

BEIJING: China toughened its language towards Taiwan on Thursday (Jan 28), warning after recent stepped up military activities near the island that "independence means war" and that their armed forces were taking action to respond to provocation and foreign interference.

Taiwan, claimed by China as its own territory, reported multiple Chinese fighter jets and bombers entering Taiwan's southwestern air defence identification zone over the weekend, prompting concern in Washington.

China believes that Taiwan's democratically-elected government is moving the island towards a declaration of formal independence, though President Tsai Ing-wen has repeatedly said they are already an independent country called the Republic of China, its formal name.

Asked at a monthly news briefing about the air forces' recent activities, Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said Taiwan was an inseparable part of China.

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"The military activities carried out by the Chinese People's Liberation Army in the Taiwan Strait are necessary actions to address the current security situation in the Taiwan Strait and to safeguard national sovereignty and security," he said.

"They are a solemn response to external interference and provocations by 'Taiwan independence' forces," he added.

Wu said a "handful" of people in Taiwan were seeking the island's independence.

"We warn those 'Taiwan independence' elements: Those who play with fire will burn themselves, and 'Taiwan independence' means war," he added.

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While China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, it is unusual for Beijing to make such overt, verbal threats of conflict.

Asked about the remarks, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said there was no reason that tensions between China and Taiwan "need to lead to anything like confrontation". He also reaffirmed longstanding US military support to Taiwan's self-defence.

"We have obligations to assist Taiwan with their self-defence and I think you're going to see that continue," said Kirby, a retired admiral, in the first Pentagon briefing of the Biden administration.

Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said China should think carefully and not underestimate the island's determination to defend its sovereignty and uphold freedom and democracy.

READ: Taiwan air force flexes muscles after latest Chinese incursion

Taiwan's Defence Ministry reported six Chinese air force aircraft, including four J-10 fighter jets, flew into its air defence zone on Thursday, close to the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands at the top end of the South China Sea.

The weekend Chinese incursions coincided with a US carrier battle group entering the disputed South China Sea to promote "freedom of the seas".

China routinely describes Taiwan as its most important and sensitive issue in relations with the United States, which under the former Trump administration ramped up support for the island in terms of arms sales and senior officials visiting Taipei.

President Joe Biden's government, in office for a week, has reaffirmed its commitment to Taiwan as being "rock solid".

Taiwan has denounced China's threats and efforts at intimidation, and Tsai has vowed to defend the island's freedom and not be coerced.

Source: Reuters/zl/dv


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