Chinese Defense Minister Dong Jun declared on Sunday that any attempts to separate Taiwan from China would be “crushed and bring about their own downfall,” as reported by DW citing Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.

Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue security conference in Singapore, Dong’s comments followed recent Chinese military drills around Taiwan, which China claims as its territory. These drills were widely perceived as an effort to intimidate Taiwan.

Dong promised that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army would act “resolutely and forcefully” to prevent “Taiwan independence.” He also accused Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party of steadily pushing for separatism and eroding the island’s Chinese identity.

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“Those separatists recently made fanatical statements that show their betrayal of the Chinese nation and their ancestors. They will be nailed to the pillar of shame in history,” Dong said.

Dong also appeared to indirectly reference the US, which sells weapons to Taiwan. He criticized foreign powers for “emboldening Taiwan separatists” and undermining the “One China” principle with “salami slicing tactics,” which include selling arms to Taiwan and maintaining official contacts with it.

While Dong asserted that China was committed to peaceful reunification, he said this possibility was being thwarted by “Taiwan independence forces.”

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In response to Dong’s remarks, Taiwan expressed deep regret over his “provocative and irrational” comments. The Mainland Affairs Council, which handles the island’s policy toward China, reiterated that the People’s Republic of China has never ruled the island. The council accused China of repeatedly threatening force against Taiwan at international venues, which it said violated the United Nations charter.

“It is an objective fact that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are not subordinate to each other, and that is also the status quo in the strait,” the council said.

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Since the Chinese Civil War ended in 1949, both Beijing and Taipei have laid claims to each other’s sovereignty in their constitutions, though Lai, in his inaugural speech, said “neither belongs to each other” and focused on protecting Taiwan’s sovereignty. He also called on other political parties “to not sacrifice sovereignty over the regime.”

Lai also called on Beijing to “stop attacking Taiwan with words and intimidating it militarily,” and he said both should work together to maintain regional stability and avoid war.

China has stepped up pressure on the island of 23 million people, periodically stoking worries about a potential invasion.

World powers are keen to see as much stability as possible between China and Taiwan, not least because of the vital role the island plays in the global economy.

The Taiwan Strait is one of the world’s most important maritime trade arteries, and the island itself is a major tech manufacturer, particularly of vital semiconductors – the tiny chips used in everything from smartphones to missile systems.

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The United States switched its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979 but remains the island’s most important ally and supplier of military hardware.

US President Biden has said he does not support Taiwan’s independence but also that he would back sending forces to defend the island. The official US position on intervention is one of ambiguity.

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