World

Xi makes strongest warning yet on Taiwan separatism

BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping warned self-ruled Taiwan yesterday 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.

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 island's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

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

In a speech at the end of China's annual session of parliament, Mr 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 realise China's complete reunification," Mr Xi said.

"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 had the will, confidence and ability to defeat any separatist activity, Mr 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."

In a visit likely to further irritate China, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alex Wong will be in Taiwan this week, the island's foreign ministry said.

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

While stepped-up Chinese military exercises around Taiwan over the past year have rattled the island, Mr Xi reiterated China's assertion that its rise was not a threat to any country, though China considers Taiwan to be merely a Chinese province, not a nation. - REUTERS

WORLD