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China renews threat, warns Taiwan independence will be ‘punished’


(Al Jazeera) China has renewed its longstanding threat to attack Taiwan and warned that foreign politicians who interact with the self-governing island are “playing with fire”.

A spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said on Wednesday that Beijing was recommitted in the new year to “safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity” and “smashing plots for Taiwan independence”.

“The malicious support for Taiwan independence among anti-China elements in a few foreign countries are a deliberate provocation,” the spokesperson, Ma Xiaoguang, said at a biweekly news conference.

“We call on the relevant countries to … cease sending the wrong signals to Taiwan independence separatist forces and cease playing with fire on the question of Taiwan,” Ma said.

China views Taiwan – a self-governing democracy that separated from mainland China in 1949 – as Chinese territory that must be brought under Beijing’s control, and by force if necessary.

China’s state-run Global Times newspaper tweeted the Taiwan Affairs Office warning that Taiwan’s “‘secession’ is doomed to fail” and that Taiwan’s independence “is an act waiting to be punished”.

High-profile visits to Taiwan in recent months by foreign politicians, including then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and numerous politicians from the European Union, have angered Beijing and spurred huge military exercises around the Island by Chinese forces, which Taipei views as a rehearsal for invasion.

At the end of December, China sent a record 71 planes and seven ships towards Taiwan – the largest such exercise in 2022.

This week, Taiwan’s military is staging its own military drills intended to reassure the public of its ability to counter China’s threats.

“The most important thing is to maintain the safety of our airspace and national security,” air force Lieutenant Colonel Wu Bong-yeng told reporters at Hsinchu Air Base just south of the capital, Taipei.

The defence drills coincided with a visit to Taiwan by German and Lithuanian legislators, and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said the visit demonstrated Berlin’s support for the island.

Leading the 10-person German delegation, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmerman – who is also the Bundestag’s defence committee chairperson – said Russia’s war in Ukraine necessitated the visit to Taiwan as it was “a huge wake-up call” not only for Europe and Germany but also for the whole world.

“Now we could see what happened in Ukraine… It affects the whole world,” Strack-Zimmerman said in Taiwan.

“That’s the reason why we come to your country,” she said.


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