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China to Taiwan: Independence 'means war'

China to Taiwan: Independence 'means war'
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China ratcheted up its rhetoric toward Taiwan as it increases its military activities near the self-governing island.

Beijing considers Taiwan to be part of China, a stance Taiwan rejects. Tensions have risen since Chinese fighter jets and bombers flew through Taiwanese airspace earlier this month, sparking a rebuke from Washington.

Chinese defense ministry spokesman Wu Qian at a briefing Thursday defended the recent activity and maintained that Taiwan is part of China.

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"The military activities carried out by the Chinese PLA [People's Liberation Army] in the Taiwan Strait are necessary actions in response to the current security situation across the Taiwan Strait," Wu said, according to a Defense Ministry readout, adding that "it is also a solemn response to the interference of external forces and the provocations by 'Taiwan independence' forces."

Wu later threatened that "'Taiwan independence’ means war,” a remark first reported by Reuters and confirmed by state media.

The comment marked a rare, overt warning from Beijing, which has never taken use of force off the table against Taiwan but does not frequently make explicit threats of war.

China has long cast Taiwan as one of its top disagreements in its relationship with the U.S.

The Trump administration ramped up support for the democratic island during its four years, including approving nearly $2.4 billion in arms sales to Taiwan in October just a week after a similarly large deal was permitted. 

The deal includes up to 100 Boeing-made Harpoon Coastal Defense Systems and 400 Harpoon Block II Surface Launched Missiles, a sale the Pentagon said was intended to help Taiwan “improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, economic and progress in the region.” 

The Biden administration has indicated it intends to keep up the relationship with Taiwan.

“We will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense 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,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said over the weekend.