China says it reserves right to use force over Taiwan

Beijing official says reunification of China and Taiwan meets the interests of all, including people living on the self-governing island.

Members of the navy put up a Taiwanese flag as the naval vessel approaches the port in Yilan, Taiwan, in 2022 [Ann Wang/Reuters]
Sailors put up a Taiwanese flag as their naval vessel approaches the port in Yilan, Taiwan [File: Ann Wang/Reuters]

China reserves the right to use force over Taiwan as a last resort in compelling circumstances, though peaceful reunification is its first choice, a Communist Party spokesman has said.

Reunification of China and Taiwan meets the interests of all, including Taiwan compatriots, Sun Yeli told a news conference in Beijing on Saturday.

Sun said Beijing would exert all efforts to bring Taiwan under its control peacefully. But he said China would not tolerate what he called a movement towards full independence backed by hardliners on the island and their overseas backers – presumably the United States, which is Taiwan’s main source of military and diplomatic support despite the lack of formal relations in deference to Beijing.

Taiwan has lived for decades under constant threat of an invasion by China, which claims the democratically ruled island as part of its own territory to be seized one day, by force if necessary.

Beijing has intensified its claim over Taiwan since Tsai Ing-wen was first elected president in Taiwan in 2016, claiming she is a “separatist” and refusing to engage with her.

It has sought to isolate Taipei diplomatically and has repeatedly said that the use of force is an option to bring the island under its control.

‘All to himself’

China has also increasingly asserted jurisdiction over the Taiwan Strait, the 180km-wide (110-mile) channel separating China from the island of Taiwan, with Chinese warships testing the unofficial sea frontier.

The US has diplomatic relations with Beijing, but is committed to providing Taiwan with the means to defend itself although it does not officially recognise the island as a country.

“We believe that the Chinese and American people have the wisdom, the opportunity and capability to find a way for peaceful coexistence,” Sun said. “But China will not allow others to bully it and the historic process of China’s national rejuvenation cannot be held back by anyone or any force.”

President Xi Jinping is poised to win a third five-year term as general secretary of the governing party, the most powerful job in the country, at a congress to be held in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing for a week starting on Sunday.

As with most Chinese political events, little information has been released beforehand and the congress’s outcome will only be announced after several days of closed-door sessions.

While Xi faces no open opposition, his parting with the party’s former collegial leadership style to concentrate power in his own hands does rankle among the public and party officials, said political observer and dissident Yin Weihong, who has faced repeated police harassment for his opposition views.

“There’s a sense that he’s taken a cake formally divided amongst several and decided he’ll just have it all to himself,” Yin said in a phone call from his home south of Shanghai.

Source: News Agencies