China reaffirmed on Wednesday his threat to use military force to annex the autonomous island of Taiwan, amid threatening military maneuvers by Beijing that have raised tensions between the two sides to their highest level in years.
The lengthy political statement by the Chinese government’s Taiwan Affairs Office and its press department came after nearly a week of missile launches and raids in Taiwanese waters and airspace by Chinese warships and warplanes.
These actions have disrupted flights and shipping in a region crucial to global supply chains, drawing harsh condemnation from the United States and Japan, among other countries.
An English version of the Chinese statement said that Beijing “will work with the utmost sincerity and do everything possible to achieve theto peaceful reunification“.
“But we will not renounce the use of force and we reserve the option to take all necessary measures. This is to protect us from external interference and from all separatist activities,” the note added.
“We will always be ready to respond with the use of force or other means necessary to the interference of external forces or the radical action of separatist elements. Our ultimate goal is to ensure the prospects for a peaceful reunification of China and advance this process,” the statement said.
A Chinese soldier watches military exercises. Photo: AP
China maintains that its threats were motivated by the visit of the speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosito the island last week, but Taiwan says such trips are commonplace and that Beijing used it as a mere pretext to harden their stance.
As part of its response, Beijing said that will suspend the dialogue on a wide range of issues, from maritime security to climate change, with Washington, which is Taiwan’s main military and political backer.
Taiwan’s foreign minister warned on Tuesday that Chinese military exercises reflect the ambition to control large areas of the western Pacificwhile Taipei made its own moves to underscore its readiness to fight back.
Beijing’s strategy would include control the East and South China seas across the Taiwan Strait and impose a blockade to prevent Washington and its allies from helping to the island in the event of an attack, Joseph Wu told a news conference in Taipei.
Beijing has expanded the ongoing maneuvers and did not offer an end datealthough it seems that for the moment they continue.
The Chinese Ministry of Defense and the Eastern Command issued separate statements indicating that the exercises had achieved their goal of send a warning supporters of formal Taiwanese independence and their foreign backers.
Chinese warplanes fly around Taiwan. Photo: Reuters
President Tsai Ing-wen and the ruling Democratic Party are “pushing Taiwan into the abyss of disaster and sooner or later they will be etched into the pillar of historical shame,” Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Tan Kefei said in remarks posted on the department’s website.
Troops participating in the exercises have “effectively tested joint combat capabilities,” the Eastern Command said on its profile on Weixin, a Twitter-like microblogging network.
“The troops will monitor changes in the situation in the Taiwan Strait, will continue to carry out training and military preparationswill organize regular combat readiness patrols in the Taiwan Strait and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said spokesman Colonel Shi Yi.
Taiwan was separated from the Chinese mainland in the 1949 civil war and its 23 million people are overwhelmingly opposed to its political unification with China. They prefer to maintain a close economic relationship and the status quo of their de facto independence.
With its exercises, China has moved closer to the borders of Taiwan and could try to establish a new normal in which it could reach control port access and the airspace of the island.
In addition to launching missiles into the Taiwan Strait, Chinese ships and planes were seen in the nearly week-long drills. crossing the center line of the straitwhich has long been considered a safe zone from open conflict.
The United States, Taipei’s main supporter in the international community, has also been willing to confront Chinese threats.
Washington does not maintain a formal diplomatic relationship with Taiwan out of deference to Beijing, but is legally bound to ensure that the island can defend itself and to treat all threats against it as matters of grave concern.