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China strengthened its language towards Taiwan on Jan. 28 and warned that “independence means war” after the Chinese military stepped up its activities near the island.

Taiwan, which is claimed by China as an additional territory, reported multiple Chinese fighter jets and bombers entering the island’s southwestern air defense identification zone over the weekend.

China believes that Taiwan is heading towards a declaration of formal independence and a democratically-elected government, despite Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen repeatedly calling Taiwan an “independent country called the Republic of China, its formal name.”

“The military activities carried out by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in the Taiwan Strait are necessary actions to address the current security situation in the Taiwan Strait and to safeguard national sovereignty and security,” Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said.

Wu said that a “handful” of people were seeking independence and “those who play with fire will burn themselves, and ‘Taiwan independence’ means war.”

China has never rejected the idea of using force to shutdown independence in Taiwan, but this statement was considered unusual because of its overt, verbal threat of conflict.  

Department of Defense spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the U.S. has an obligation to assist Taiwan in protecting itself against China. He also stated that China should not overreact to the new administration repeating these long-held policies.

“Nothing has changed about the department’s commitment” to the Taiwan Relations Act and the Three Communiques about Taiwan, Kirby said in a Pentagon news conference.

In response to China’s comments on war against Taiwan, Kirby stated

“The department sees no reason why tensions over Taiwan need to lead to anything like confrontation. And so, we find that comment unfortunate, and certainly not commensurate with our intentions to meet our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act [and the Three Communiques].”

The Taiwan Relations Act “maintain[s] peace, security, and stability in the Western Pacific.” The Three Communiques are a series of documents signed by the U.S. and China, which formed the basis for normalizing relations. Washington recognizes the People’s Republic of China government as the sole legal government of China and acknowledges that Taiwan is part of it.

When asked whether the U.S. was prepared to defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion, Kirby said, “I’m not going to get into hypotheticals.The United States military remains ready in all respects to meet our security commitments in the region.”

Written ByJasmine Perry

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