Chinese embassy minister Li Kexin warned Taiwanese officials on Friday that Beijing would use “military force” if the island nation welcomed U.S. Navy ships to its ports, claiming any U.S. presence in Taiwan would violate China’s Anti-Secession Law.
China views Taiwan, or the Republic of China, as a breakaway province, not a sovereign nation. The United States operates under its “One China” policy, in which it enjoys separate diplomatic relations with Taiwan but does not recognize its sovereignty.
Li issued the threat during remarks at the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC, during a conversation about the Chinese Communist Party’s (CPC) Congress held in October. He referred to text in Congress’s 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that calls for “mutual visits by navy vessels between Taiwan and the United States,” according to Reuters.
President Donald Trump has yet to sign the NDAA, but it has passed both houses of Congress. The Taiwanese government responded favorably to the news of the NDAA calling for furthering bilateral cooperation with the United States.
China’s state-run propaganda outlet Global Times quotes Li as warning Washington that, if “you send military vessels over there, [you] will activate the Anti-Secession Law [of China].”
“The day that a US Navy vessel arrives in Kaohsiung is the day that our People’s Liberation Army unifies Taiwan with military force,” he stated, referring to a port city in southwestern Taiwan.
The Taipei Times phrases Li’s comment as couched in the quip that he “may have to thank you American friends” for triggering the violent reunification of Taiwan.
Asked about the remarks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters on Monday that China “always opposes official exchanges and military contact of any form between the United States and Taiwan.”
“We urge the US to abide by the one-China principle and three China-US joint communiqués and the US must prudentially and properly handle Taiwan-related issues,” he added.
Lu also asserted that China was committed to “peaceful development of cross-straits relations” and preventing “the recurrence of the historical tragedy of national division.”
The Global Times confirmed in a report on Li had not made a rogue remark at odds with Beijing, but that his threat “is expected to be an official warning from the mainland,” citing “experts.” The publication also posted a belligerent piece calling Taipei “obviously frightened” and calling officials on the island’s government under the anti-Beijing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) “deficient of both direction and sense of security.”
“The Chinese mainland has never given up the option of Taiwan reunification by force, which is clear to people across the Taiwan Straits,” the Times warned. “But Taiwan is not sure what will prompt the PLA’s actions while the DPP has been deceiving Taiwanese that the island will stay safe whatever it does.”
“Li’s words are like warning bells on Taiwan authorities considering independence by a salami-slicing strategy,” it continued. “Taiwan is facing what Peking faced in 1949 – being encircled by mainland forces. Any move that oversteps the boundary will be in vain.”
Taiwan’s current President Tsai Ing-wen ran a campaign promising to assert the island’s sovereignty, against a ruling Kuomintang (KMT) accused of becoming too complacent in keeping Beijing’s communist influence at arm’s length. Tsai has promised to boost defense spending and build stronger ties to allies like the United States. High on the list of defense requests Taipei has is more modern aircraft to help with surveillance, particularly as China illegally expands its military footprint in the South China Sea.
Taiwanese officials have responded to Li’s threats by asserting that they have peaceful intentions and that the island “has long been pursuing the stable and peaceful development of cross-strait relations and will not go the route of resistance but neither will it cave under pressure.”
The Taiwanese Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) also issued a statement Saturday stating that “the threat of military action only reflects negatively on China in the eyes of the world.”