China says it won't rule out using force to reunify Taiwan with mainland

China says it will not "renounce the use of force" in efforts to reunify Taiwan with the mainland and vows to take all necessary military measures to defeat "separatists."

'We urge Beijing authorities to renounce irrational, malicious acts such as the use of force,' Taiwan says

Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, in 2018 after reviewing the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy fleet in the South China Sea. China said on Wednesday it will not 'renounce the use of force' in efforts to reunify Taiwan with the mainland. (Li Gang, File/Xinhua via Associated Press)

China says it will not "renounce the use of force" in efforts to reunify Taiwan with the mainland and vows to take all necessary military measures to defeat "separatists."

In a national defence white paper released Wednesday, China listed among its top priorities its resolve to contain "Taiwan independence" and combat what it considers separatist forces in Tibet and the far west region of Xinjiang.

The paper, published every few years, is an outline of China's national defence policy. Wednesday's report highlighted China's "defensive" approach, but also pledged to "surely counterattack if attacked."

Defence Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian said the threat of Taiwan separatism is growing and warned those who are seeking Taiwan independence will meet a dead end.

"If anyone dares to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese army will certainly fight, resolutely defending the country's sovereign unity and territorial integrity," Wu said.

Taiwan, a democratically governed island, split from the Communist Party-ruled mainland China amid civil war in 1949. China maintains Taiwan is part of its territory and seeks "complete reunification," while Taiwan's leaders reject this sovereignty claim.

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The United States has repeatedly raised Beijing's ire by selling arms to Taiwan. While the U.S. does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, U.S. law requires that it provide Taiwan with sufficient defence equipment and services for self-defence.

Earlier this month, the U.S. tentatively approved a sale of $2.2 billion US in arms to Taiwan — a proposal which had prompted China to threaten sanctions against the U.S. Taiwan's defence ministry said it made the request in light of a growing military threat from China.

The white paper also pointed to U.S., Japanese and Australian moves to beef up their military presence and alliances in the Asia-Pacific as bringing uncertainties to the region.

The U.S. deployment of a missile defence system in South Korea has severely undermined the regional strategic balance, the report said. It further noted Japan's reinterpretation of its post-Second World War constitution to allow its military to operate farther from its shores.

China's military expansion in recent years has prompted concerns among other Pacific countries in a region long dominated by the U.S. Navy.

Taiwan responds

In response to China's new military white paper, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said later in a statement that Beijing's "provocative behaviour ... seriously violated the peace principle in international laws and relations, challenging regional safety and order.

"We urge Beijing authorities to renounce irrational, malicious acts such as the use of force, and to improve cross-strait relations and handle issues including Hong Kong rationally, so that it can be a responsible regional member," it said.

China's Defence Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian, speaking to reporters at the State Council Information Office in Beijing on Wednesday, says the threat of Taiwan separatism is growing. (Andy Wong/The Associated Press)

In Beijing, asked how China's military would handle escalating protest violence in Hong Kong's widening crisis over a controversial extradition bill, Wu referred only to the territory's garrison law, which he said "already has a clear stipulation."

The law states the Hong Kong government can request the People's Liberation Army (PLA) garrison's assistance to maintain public order.

But legal scholars say it is a high threshold, and some retired security officials say any involvement by PLA units in Hong Kong security would shatter the "one country, two systems" formula under which the former British colony returned to China in 1997.

Wu also said reports of a secret pact with Cambodia granting China's armed forces exclusive access to part of the Southeast Asian nation's Ream Naval Base on the Gulf of Thailand were "not in accordance with the facts.

"China and Cambodia have in the past carried out positive exchanges and co-operation on military drills, personnel training and logistics," he said. "This kind of cooperation does not target any third party."

With files from Reuters