Olympic flame arrives in Beijing amid controversy
China's president vows 'peaceful reunification' with Taiwan
Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged in a speech Saturday that there will be a "peaceful reunification" of Taiwan and China, comments that come amid the highest tensions in years between the two governments.
"Taiwan independence separatism is the biggest obstacle to achieving the reunification of the motherland, and the most serious hidden danger to national rejuvenation," Xi said, according to Reuters.
"No one should underestimate the Chinese people's staunch determination, firm will, and strong ability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity," he added. "The historical task of the complete reunification of the motherland must be fulfilled, and will definitely be fulfilled."
Although the speech did not include any threats of force, it was not received well by Taiwanese officials, who immediately rebuked the idea of reunification with China.
Taiwan's presidential office said after the speech that it has already rejected offers of reunification and that Taiwan is an independent country, despite China not recognizing it, Reuters reported.
"The nation's future rests in the hands of Taiwan's people," the office stated.
The exchange Saturday follows weeks of tensions between the democratically run island and Beijing.
Taiwan has been preparing for possible war after a series of increasingly aggressive military actions from China, including sending military plans into Taiwan's air defense identification zone multiple times this month.
China recently called on the U.S. not to interfere with its relations with Taiwan and keep troops out of the country after reports surfaced that American troops have been training Taiwanese soldiers secretly for a year.
A recent poll indicated that a majority of Americans would support U.S. troops in Taiwan if China tried to invade the island.
"We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure and coercion against Taiwan, and we have an abiding interest in peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. That's why we will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.