China sparks all-out conflict fears with chilling threat to Taiwan It follows Taiwanese reports of a “large incursion” by Chinese warplanes on Sunday – for the second day in a row. China said its military forces were acting in response to provocation and foreign interference.
The eastern superpower claims sovereignty over its island neighbour, a democracy of around 24 million people – despite the two nations having been governed separately for over seven decades.
Beijing claims ownership under its “One China” policy which demands there is only one sovereign state under the name China.
China’s Communist Party has previously threatened to take Taiwan by force if diplomatic efforts do not succeed.
Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said at a press briefing that Taiwan was an inseparable part of China.
He said: “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.”
Mr Wu added: “They are a solemn response to external interference and provocations by ‘Taiwan independence’ forces.”
The spokesman also claimed a “handful” of people in Taiwan were seeking independence from China.
He continued: “We warn those ‘Taiwan independence’ elements: those who play with fire will burn themselves, and ‘Taiwan independence’ means war.”
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has repeatedly claimed the island is already an independent country.
Analysts have said China’s recent moves could be an early test to US President Joe Biden.
The Chinese warplane incursions coincided with a US carrier battle group entering the South China Sea to promote “freedom of the seas”.
China has claimed a large part of the South China Sea as its own which has triggered territorial disputes.
The US, along with several countries which neighbour the South China Sea, have disputed Beijing’s claim over the waters.
China has previously said it will take action to “safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interest” in the disputed waters.
On Saturday, days after Mr Biden was sworn in, the US State Department restated its “rock-solid” commitment to helping Taiwan defend its island.
A statement from Ned Price, Department Spokesperson, read: “We will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defence capability.
“Our commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid and contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region.”
He added how the US is concerned about the “pattern of ongoing People’s Republic of China attempts to intimidate its neighbours, including Taiwan”.
Mr Price continued: “We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives.”
China has frequently described Taiwan as its most important and sensitive issue in relations with Washington.
Former US President Donald Trump increased Washington’s support for Taiwan through arms sales and by sending senior officials to visit the island.
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