Xi warns Taiwan will face

World


BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping warned self-ruled Taiwan on Tuesday that it will face the “punishment of history” for any attempt at separatism, offering his strongest warning yet to the island claimed by China as its sacred territory.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at the closing session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Taiwan is one of China’s most sensitive issues and a potentially dangerous military flashpoint.

China’s hostility towards Taiwan has risen since the 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

China suspects Tsai wants to push for formal independence, which would cross a red line for Communist Party leaders in Beijing, though Tsai has said she wants to maintain the status quo and is committed to ensuring peace.

China has been infuriated by U.S. President Donald Trump’s signing into law legislation last week that encourages the United States to send senior officials to Taiwan to meet Taiwanese counterparts and vice versa.

The United States does not have formal ties with Taiwan but is required by law to help it with self-defense and is the island’s primary source of weapons.

In a speech at the end of China’s annual session of parliament, Xi told the 3,000-odd delegates that China would push for the “peaceful reunification of the motherland” and work for more Taiwanese to enjoy the opportunities of China’s development.

“It is a shared aspiration of all Chinese people and in their basic interests to safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and realize China’s complete reunification,” Xi said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping bows as he returns to his seat after his speech at the closing session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

“Any actions and tricks to split China are doomed to failure and will meet with the people’s condemnation and the punishment of history,” he added, to loud applause.

China has the will, confidence and ability to defeat any separatist activities, Xi said.

“The Chinese people share a common belief that it is never allowed and it is absolutely impossible to separate any inch of our great country’s territory from China.”

Proudly democratic Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by autocratic China, and has accused China of not understanding how democracy works, pointing out that Taiwan’s people have the right to decide its future.

The new U.S. law on Taiwan adds to strains between China and the United States over trade, as Trump has enacted tariffs and called for China to reduce its huge trade imbalance with the United States, even while Washington has leaned on Beijing to help resolve tensions with North Korea.

Taiwan has thanked the United States for the law and its support, but its foreign ministry said on Monday there were no plans for any senior leaders, such as the president, to visit the country.

While China’s stepped up military drills around Taiwan over the past year have rattled Taipei, Xi reiterated claims that China’s rise was not a threat to any country, though China considers Taiwan to be merely a Chinese province not a nation.

“Only those who in the habit of threatening others will see everyone else as a threat,” Xi said.

Additional reporting by Stella Qiu and Christian Shepherd, and Twinnie Siu in TAIPEI; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry



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