Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to pursue a peaceful “reunification” with Taiwan despite Beijing’s increasing military activity and escalating tensions between the two neighbours.
“The reunification of the nation must be felt, and will certainly be felt,” Xi vowed before politicians on Saturday at an event to mark the 110th anniversary of the end of China’s last imperial dynasty.
Xi described the “Taiwan independence” force as the biggest obstacle to reunification with mainland China. “Those who forget their heritage, betray their motherland and try to divide the country will do no good,” he warned.
Since Taiwan’s separation from mainland China in the mid-20th century, the two have been governed separately. But despite never ruling the island, Beijing considers Taiwan part of its territory.
Xi laid out his plan for reunification under the “one country, two systems” policy – a reorganization strongly opposed by Taiwan.
He said: “People should not underestimate the determination of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity. The task of China’s complete integration must and must be achieved.”
It comes days after Taiwan raised the alarm that China could launch a “full-scale” invasion by 2025. President Tsai Ing-wen said the island nation does not want war but is ready to defend itself if necessary.
He said: “Taiwan does not seek military confrontation. It looks forward to peaceful, stable, predictable and mutually beneficial coexistence with its neighbors. But Taiwan also seeks to defend its independence and democratic way of life. He will do whatever he does.
Last week, over a period of four days, China sent 148 warplanes to Taiwan’s air defense sector in what has been described as the worst escalation of tensions between the two neighbors in four decades. Recent developments have raised alarm from leaders around the world. The US, Australia and Japan have urged China to commit to a peaceful solution.
Taiwan celebrates its National Day on Sunday and this year the festivities will feature a rare display of military equipment including missiles and fighter jets in front of the presidential office building in the center of Taipei. It is the first incorporation of military hardware into Taipei’s official celebrations in years, and the first since Ms Tsai took office in 2016. Local media coverage of rehearsals for the festival showed large missile launch vehicles driving through the streets of Taipei, although the missiles themselves were not directly visible. In the past, the Taiwanese government has kept its missile capabilities out of the public eye to avoid appearing provocative, said Kuo Yu-jen, a defense studies expert at the Institute for National Policy Research in Taiwan.
Mr Kuo said Taipei thinks it “must demonstrate that Taiwan has the ability to deter China’s threat” as Beijing becomes “overly assertive”.
In previous years, National Day celebrations have included choreographed performances by motorized military police and overflights by the island’s air force. However, missiles were not part of that performance.
“I think it’s to boost the morale of the Taiwanese people,” said Fan Shih-ping, a professor of political science at the National Taiwan Normal University.
AP. Additional reporting by
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