China ‘ready to go to war’ if Taiwan tries to gain independence

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China says it is “ready to go to war” over the issue of Taiwan’s independence, according to a defense ministry report that provides a rare insight into the country’s military-strategic priorities.

The US, which provides arms to Taiwan, was accused of “undermining global strategic stability” and named at the top of a list of “prominent destabilizing factors” in the white paper, the first of its kind to be released by the Chinese government since President Xi Jinping came to power.

Presenting the document, defense ministry spokesman Wu Qian said it was still China’s goal to achieve a peaceful reunification with Taiwan, a territory that split from the Communist Party-ruled mainland in 1949 and is in all practical senses runs as an independent democratic nation.

“However, we must firmly point out that seeking Taiwan independence is a dead end,” Wu told reporters.

“If there are people who dare to try to split Taiwan from the country, China’s military will be ready to go to war to firmly safeguard national sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity,” he said.

China’s defence ministry has released 10 policy white papers since 1998, but Wednesday’s was the first since the 18th National Party Congress in 2012, officials said.

Since then there have been “profound changes” to the international security environment, the document notes.

“The US has adjusted its national security and defence strategies, and adopted unilateral policies,” China said in the document. “It has provoked and intensified competition among countries significantly increased its defense expenditure … and undermined global strategic stability.”

China would itself implement “moderate and steady” growth in defence spending, the document revealed but claimed this was low compared to other major economies. “There is still a wide gap between China’s defence expenditure and the requirements for safeguarding national sovereignty, security, and development interests,” it said.

Alongside a resolve to contain the issue of “Taiwan independence”, China also listed the threats of what it calls separatist forces in Tibet and the far west region of Xinjiang.

On the latter, the report claimed central paramilitary police have helped Xinjiang authorities “take out 1,588 violent terrorist gangs and capture 12,995 terrorists”.

The UN has criticized the internment of around 1 million minority Muslims in Xinjiang “re-education camps”, part of what China calls a counter-terrorism campaign. Former detainees say people are being arbitrarily detained on the basis of their beliefs and subject to political indoctrination.

And while the white paper said China was “exercis[ing] its national sovereignty to build infrastructure and deploy necessary defensive capabilities on the islands and reefs in the South China Sea”, defence ministry spokesman Wu denied reports of a secret deal with Cambodia for access to the strategically located Ream Naval Base on the Gulf of Thailand.

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

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