Any Beijing-deemed separatist attempt must be reined in, claimed Ma Xiaoguang, spokesperson for the mainland Chinese government agency Taiwan Affairs Office during the Dec. 29 regular press briefing.
Without naming Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, Ma mentioned her Democratic Progressive Party. The current ruling Party views Taiwan as a de facto nation called the Republic of China, although without a formal declaration for independence.
“If separatist forces in Taiwan seeking independence provoke, exert force or even break through any red line, we will have to take drastic measures,” Ma warned.
Although Taiwan vowed to defend its freedom at all costs against threats from its giant neighbor China—it did not seek provocations—the president said previously.
“It hopes for a peaceful, stable, predictable, and mutually beneficial coexistence with its neighbors,” Tsai addressed the annual Yushan Forum in Taipei in October.
China has claimed for decades the democratic island as its own to be seized one day. Yet the relationships between the two have been deteriorating since 2016 as Tsai won the presidential election. Beijing in the past two years has stepped up military and diplomatic pressure to assert its sovereignty claim, fuelling anger in Taipei and concern in Washington.
In a statement issued the same day, Taiwan’s top China-policy maker, the Mainland Affairs Council, urged Beijing to “seriously reflect on its work towards Taiwan and make correct judgments on the situation.”
Lee Cheng-hsiu, a senior assistant research fellow at Taiwan’s National Policy Foundation, said in a previous interview: “Once Taiwan announces it’s an independent country, the Chinese regime will use force against Taiwan at all cost.”
Taiwan has emerged as a key factor in strained relations between China and the United States, the island’s most important international backer and arms supplier despite the absence of formal diplomatic ties. China deemed the island as the most sensitive issue in its ties with the United States.
Two months ago, Tsai confirms to the outside for the first time the presence of U.S. troops training soldiers on the island.
Ma said provocation by pro-independence forces and “external intervention” could grow “sharper and more intense” in the coming months. “Collusion with foreign forces” against China, as he called, would also hit rock bottom.
“Next year, the Taiwan Strait situation will become more complex and severe,” he said on Dec. 29.
Beijing will be fully capable of mounting a full-scale invasion of the island by 2025, the Taiwanese defense minister warned in October, after nearly 150 warplanes fly into the island’s air defense zone in four consecutive days.
Since January 2021, Taiwan has seen a surging number of over 940 air forays sent by Beijing to the zone—compared with about 380 sorties the prior year—according to Taiwanese semi-official Central News Agency, citing a government report.
Reuters contributed to this report.