China says military exercises intended to threaten Taiwan

BEIJING — A Chinese government spokesman said Wednesday that the country's military exercises around Taiwan are intended as a direct threat to the self-governing island's government over moves Beijing sees as cementing its independence from the mainland.

The message conveyed by the recent drills is "very clear," spokesman for the Cabinet's Taiwan Affairs Office An Fengshan said at a biweekly news conference.

"It is a strong warning to Taiwan independence separatist forces and their activities. It demonstrates our determination and capabilities to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity," An said.

China has the "firm will, full confidence and sufficient capabilities" to block moves toward Taiwan's formal independence, An said.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory to be brought under control by force if necessary. A Japanese colony for 50 years, Taiwan was handed to China at the end of World War II but separated from the mainland in 1949 amid civil war.

Since her election in 2016, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has refused China's demand that she recognize Taiwan as a part of China. That prompted Beijing to cut off contact with her government, step up military exercises and work to increase Taiwan's diplomatic isolation.

Chinese state media have given heavy publicity to frequent missions by air force fighters, bombers and surveillance planes to circle Taiwan. China last month held drills on its side of the Taiwan Strait and has repeatedly sailed its sole operating aircraft carrier through the 160-kilometer (100-mile) -wide waterway.

Despite Beijing's threats and strong economic ties between the sides, surveys show few Taiwanese favor political unification with authoritarian, Communist Party-ruled China.

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