China Warns Taiwan 'Independence Means War,' Ramps up Military Presence Around Island

The Chinese defense ministry has come out with some of Beijing's bluntest language yet on Taiwan, warning Taipei on Thursday that "independence means war."

The remarks by Ministry of National Defense spokesperson Wu Qian came after China ramped up its military presence in the Taiwan Strait over the weekend, flying a total of 28 Chinese warplanes—including heavy bombers—into the southwestern corner of Taiwan's air defense identification zone.

One warplane was sent into the ADIZ on Monday and there have been four incursions on each of the past three days, according to Taiwan's defense ministry. The ministry in Taipei declined to comment on Wu's remarks.

People's Liberation Army exercises in the Taiwan Strait were a "solemn response to external interference and provocations by Taiwan independence forces," said Wu. Taiwan is an "inalienable part of China's territory" and an "internal issue," he told reporters at a monthly press conference.

"National unification," Wu added, "is an irreversible trend." He likened "Taiwan independence" supporters to "bubbles" in a river.

"We warn Taiwan independence elements: those who play with fire will be burned. Taiwan independence means war."

The unusually large military presence near the island on Saturday and Sunday coincided with the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt's "freedom of the seas" operation in the contested South China Sea. China accused Washington of "muscle flexing" and charged Taipei with seeking independence with the help of "external forces"—a phrase generally associated with the United States.

The Taiwanese government rejects Beijing's charges. President Tsai Ing-wen has previously said her administration has no plans to declare independence formally, as Taiwan is already a functionally independent country.

Wu did not address the Biden administration's recent pronouncements in support of Taiwan in his press briefing, but called for a reset of relations between Beijing and Washington.

The defence ministry spokesperson said U.S.-China relations had experienced "grave difficulties" under former President Donald Trump, and the militaries of the two countries faced "risks and challenges."

This proved that efforts to contain China would be "mission impossible," he added, describing the task as "picking up a stone and dropping it on one's own foot."

Wu revealed that military leaders from the U.S. and China had met by teleconference on Tuesday and Wednesday in order to discuss the tracing of American servicemen's remains from previous wars in the region.

Military relations between the nations were at a "new historical starting point," he said, adding that he hoped the Biden administration would "properly handle" China's concerns in the spirit of professionalism."

Chinese Fighter Jet Performs at Airshow
File photo of a J-11B fighter jet from the People's Liberation Army. STR/AFP via Getty Images