CHINA has warned that efforts by Taiwan to seek independence “mean war”.
The chilling message comes after Beijing sent a dozen bombers and fighter jets to the island as tensions escalate just days into President Joe Biden’s new administration.
Taiwan responded to China’s incursion by scrambling fighters, broadcasting warnings by radio and deploying air defence missile systems, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said.
Speaking on Thursday, Chinese defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian said its armed forces were acting in response to “provocation and foreign interference”.
Wu also said a “handful” of people in Taiwan were seeking the island’s independence and warned any such move “means war”.
“We are seriously telling those Taiwan independence forces: those who play with fire will burn themselves, and Taiwan independence means war,” Wu told reporters.
“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.
“They are a solemn response to external interference and provocations by ‘Taiwan independence’ forces.”
Chinese officials have previously said the flights are aimed to act as a warning against “collusion” between the US and Taiwan.
China views Taiwan as its territory and believes Taiwan’s democratically elected government is moving the island toward a declaration of formal independence.
It has ramped up pressure on the island since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016, who rejects the idea that the island is part of “one China”.
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.
US MILITARY SUPPORT
But Biden’s new administration said the US commitment to Taiwan is “rock-solid” and said it was concerned by China’s “pattern of ongoing attempts to intimidate its neighbours”.
Asked about the latest 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,” Kirby said.
Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said 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.
A US carrier battle group also entered the disputed South China Sea over the weekend to promote “freedom of the seas”.
During the incursion into Taiwan’s air defence zone, China’s military aircraft simulated missile attacks on a nearby US aircraft carrier, US intelligence sources told the Financial Times.
The sources said the Chinese bombers were conducting an exercise which used a group of US Navy vessels as a simulated target.
Military tensions between China and the US worsened under Donald Trump, who adopted an aggressive stance on regional flashpoints such as Taiwan and the South China Sea.
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But Wu said relations between the Chinese and US militaries are at a “new historical starting point” and should focus on cooperation and avoiding confrontations.
Washington sought to firm up ties with Asia this week, with President Joe Biden reaffirming his administration’s “unwavering commitment” to defend Japan.
Taiwan has denounced China’s threats and efforts at intimidation, and Tsai has vowed to defend the island’s freedom and not be coerced.