Ahead of Military Anniversary, China Calls Taiwan Its 'Sacred Mission'

The Chinese military on Thursday renewed warnings about the political sensitivities surrounding Taiwan as U.S. lawmakers pressed President Joe Biden to take a harder line with Chinese leader Xi Jinping ahead of their call.

The Biden-Xi summit is their fifth call in 18 months. Their latest talks come as Beijing ratchets up its aggressive rhetoric in hopes of stopping House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from leading a high-profile visit to Taipei next month.

At a monthly press conference in the Chinese capital, China's Defense Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian issued the country's latest hands-off message about Taiwan, the democratically governed island off the coast of eastern China, claimed by successive Chinese leaders as part of its sovereignty territory.

"Taiwan is China's Taiwan; the Taiwan issue is purely China's internal affair, and there is no room for U.S. interference," Wu said in response to a question about the House's approval earlier this month of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.

China Military Warns U.S. Off Taiwan Support
China called Taiwan its "sacred mission" ahead of the People's Liberation Army's 95th anniversary. Above, a pair of Taiwan’s Indigenous Defense Fighters release flares during the island’s annual Han Kuang military exercise in Pingtung, Taiwan on July 28, 2022. Annabelle Chih/Getty Images

The bill reaffirms U.S. commitments to help Taiwan deter a possible Chinese invasion, and for the second year in a row urges the Pentagon to step up joint military training with Taiwanese forces, including by invitation to RIMPAC.

"For some time now, the U.S. side has been saying one thing and doing another. On the one hand, it says it is committed to the one-China policy and does not support Taiwan independence, while on the other hand strengthening its military and political ties with China's Taiwan region, introducing plans to sell arms to Taiwan," Wu said.

"This playing with fire is very dangerous. It seriously undermines peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and seriously raises the risk of military confrontation between China and the United States," he said.

In previous talks with Xi, Biden reaffirmed the U.S. position of not endorsing Taiwan's de jure independence from China, a message he's likely to repeat on Thursday. But the president has also reaffirmed commitments under the U.S.'s one China policy, an element of which requires Washington to assist Taipei with its self-defense while maintaining its own military capability to resist any resort to force by Beijing.

China hasn't ruled out non-peaceful means of achieving its political objective of "unification" with Taiwan, even at the cost of armed conflict with the United States.

Ahead of the Biden-Xi call, lawmakers on Capitol Hill urged the American president to push back against threats made to Pelosi amid concerns the speaker could back down and cancel her visit to Taiwan, a move some fear could undermine U.S. credibility in the increasingly tense relationship with China.

"It is the sacred mission of [the] Chinese People's Liberation Army to unify the motherland and stop secession," said Wu. "We will continue to have zero tolerance for Taiwan independence, fight Taiwan independence without hesitation and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Pelosi's visit, part of a bipartisan congressional delegation's trip across Asia, is said to be scheduled for Congress' August recess. The PLA marks its 95th anniversary on August 1.

Biden's talks with Xi, the first since March, could prove to be one of the most important of his presidency so far, testing the strength of the "common-sense guardrails" his administration has sought to establish with the Chinese over the last 18 months.

China's growing military capabilities have seen Chinese forces physically challenge the presence of the American and allied militaries in Asia in recent years, U.S. defense officials say. The Biden administration believes this bravado could soon lead to a midair or at-sea mishap, one that could spark a wider conflict unless both sides maintain open lines of communication for effective crisis management.