China Warns It'll Use Military Action to 'Stop Taiwan Independence' as U.S. Officials Visit Island

Just before American officials arrived in Taiwan at President Joe Biden's request, China warned it would not rule out the use of military action to keep the island nation from "the interference of external forces."

"The signal given by the military drills is that we are determined to stop Taiwan independence, and stop Taiwan from working with the US. We are doing it with action," Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said to reporters on Tuesday.

Ma's comments come as former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd and former deputy Secretaries of State Richard Armitage and James Steinberg are headed to Taiwan for a meeting that the White House considers a "personal signal" of Biden's commitment to the island's democracy, according to the South China Morning Post.

The Americans' three-day stay in Taiwan will include a meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Thursday, as well as discussion of the two nations' relations. Taiwanese officials are set to brief the U.S. officials on China's actions in their territory and ask for increased support from Biden in matters of trade, economy and security, The Wall Street Journalreported.

John Kerry, Biden's climate envoy, is set to visit Shanghai at the same time to speak about bilateral climate actions with Beijing, but he said in an interview that working with China on climate issues wouldn't change the U.S.' stance on Taiwan.

As Biden amps up relations with Taipei, Beijing has responded that the U.S. must cease its meetings with the island and has expressed a willingness to escalate military force against Taiwan to make its message heard.

"We do not promise to abandon the use of force, and retain the option of taking all necessary measures," Ma said. "We are aimed at the interference of external forces and the very small number of separatists and their separatist activities. We are definitely not aimed at compatriots in Taiwan."

Ma added: "The People's Liberation Army's military exercises and training operations are sending a signal that our determination to curb Taiwan independence and Taiwan-U.S. collusion is not just talk."

In a email statement to Newsweek, a U.S. State Department spokesperson responded to Ma's comments, saying "the United States notes with concern the pattern of ongoing [People's Republic of China] attempts to intimidate the region, including Taiwan. We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan."

The spokesperson added that in response to a growing threat from China, the U.S. will "deepen our unofficial security relationship" in the effort to make sure Taiwan has increased self-defense abilities.

"We expect Beijing to honor its commitment to the peaceful resolution of cross Strait differences, and we will stand with friends and allies to protect and advance our shared prosperity, security, and values in the Indo-Pacific region," the spokesperson said.

Taiwan
China issued a warning it would not rule out military force to make its message clear that the U.S. should cease exchanges with Taiwan, a nation Beijing considers to be part of its territory. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen waves to the supporters at the celebration of the 14th presidential inauguration on May 20, 2016 in Taipei, Taiwan. Ashley Pon/Getty Images

Ma's urgency occurs amid increased tension between the mainland and the U.S. regarding their relations with Taiwan. The island has existed as an independent nation with the support of Western nations including the U.S., but China has continued to claim Taiwan as part of its official territory.

The Journal reported earlier this week that an unclassified report by Office of the Director of National Intelligence found that China is the number-one threat facing the U.S., and that assimilating Taiwan serves as a part of Beijing's consolidation strategy in the effort to overwhelm U.S. hegemony.

And now China has committed its largest incursion into Taiwanese territory to date, Reuters reported. By "military drills," Ma referred to China breaching Taiwan's airspace on Monday and Tuesday, when Beijing sent 25 warplanes into Taiwan's air defense identification zone (ADIZ), including fighters and nuclear-capable bombers.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in a press conference on Tuesday the U.S. should "not to play with fire on the Taiwan issue, immediately stop any form of U.S.-Taiwan official contacts, cautiously and appropriately handle the matter, and not send wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces so as not to subversively influence and damage Sino-U.S. relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," according to Reuters.

But the Biden administration hasn't showed any sign of backing down from Taiwan. Just before China entered Taiwan's airspace this week, the U.S. Department of State had issued new guidelines for U.S.-Taiwan relations, pulling back restrictions on official relations with Taiwan to foster more interaction with the nation. According to a State Department press release, the new protocol "underscores Taiwan is a vibrant democracy."

In an interview with NBC News' Meet the Press, Secretary of State Antony Blinken also said it "would be a serious mistake" if China were to use military force against Taiwan.

"We have a commitment to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act, a bipartisan commitment that's existed for many, many years, to make sure that Taiwan has the ability to defend itself, and to make sure that we're sustaining peace and security in the western Pacific," Blinken said. "We stand behind those commitments. And all I can tell you is it would be a serious mistake for anyone to try to change the existing status quo by force."

Updated 1:49 PM ET, to include comment from the State Department.