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Chinese envoy to US warns of possible 'military conflict' over Taipei

File photo of China’s Ambassador to Washington, Qin Gang

China’s top envoy to the US has warned of a likely “military conflict” over persistent American efforts to urge officials of Taipei to seek independence from the mainland.

"The Taiwan issue is the biggest tinderbox between China and the United States,” China’s Ambassador to Washington Qin Gang said Thursday during an interview with state-funded National Public Radio (NPR).

“If the Taiwanese authorities, emboldened by the United States, keep going down the road for independence, it most likely will involve China and the United States, the two big countries, in the military conflict."

China has long considered the nearby island territory as its “sacred” territory and has always vowed of its eventual unification with the mainland even if it has to resort to the use of force.

Qin, however, insisted that forceful measures would be the last resort towards unification, saying, "People on both sides of Taiwan Straits are Chinese, so we are compatriots. So the last thing we should do is to fight with compatriots.”

“We will do our utmost in the greatest sincerity to achieve a peaceful reunification,” he added, noting that since Taiwanese authorities, buoyed by the US, are following a path towards separation from the mainland, “China will not commit to giving up the un-peaceful means for reunification because this is a deterrence."

The remarks came after Chinese President Xi Jinping also warned earlier this month that a confrontation between major world powers could only lead to catastrophic consequences and will not solve any problems.

While addressing the virtual Davos World Economic Forum on January 17, Xi insisted that countries must abandon Cold War mentality and seek peaceful coexistence and win-win outcomes.

"Our world today is far from the tranquil, rhetoric that stokes hatred and prejudice abound," Xi declared after warning against all forms of unilateralism, protectionism as well as hegemony. "History has proved time and again that confrontation does not solve problems, it only invites catastrophic consequences."

Pentagon reaffirms US support of Taipei

Reacting to Qin’s warning about the likelihood of a US-China conflict, some American officials appeared adamant about extending political and military support to the breakaway Chinese Taipei.

"We will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability while also maintaining our own capacity to resist any use of force that would jeopardize the security of the people of Taiwan," said a Pentagon spokesperson.

The official, however, added that Washington remained committed to its "one China" policy and its commitments under the US Taiwan Relations Act, which officially recognized Beijing instead of Taipei, but also obliges the American military to provide Taipei with the means to “defend itself.”

The US State Department and White House have not yet reacted to Qin’s remarks, which came just hours after American top diplomat, Antony Blinken, discussed with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, the persisting crisis over Ukraine in a telephone conversation.

Wang further warned Blinken to "stop interfering" in the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing after a handful of Western countries followed the US to boycott the international sports event. 

“The most urgent priority right now is that the US should stop interfering in the Beijing Winter Olympics," Wang said during the call.

The Chinese envoy to the US also slammed Washington’s so-called “diplomatic boycott” of the upcoming event over propped up human rights allegations, pointing out that the hostile move has added to tensions although it drew little support from American allies -- even with US athletes taking part in the major sport event.

Alleged ‘genocide’ against Uyghurs ‘biggest lie’

Qin further rejected as the “biggest lies of the century” the highly publicized US allegations of Chinese “genocide” against the mostly Muslim Uyghur minority in western China, and emphasized that Uyghur people – like ethnic groups across the mainland – “enjoy a happy life.”

“They enjoy the rights and the freedom guaranteed by the constitution of China. They are a member of the big family of Chinese nation,” he then underlined, reiterating that “there is no genocide at all.”

According to NPR, the remarks by the senior Chinese diplomat marked “an unusually direct statement” regarding the US and Taiwan, with observers saying that Beijing often addresses the issue in more general terms, such as saying that the US is "playing with fire."

The report further points to surging concerns among US officials and analysts over Taiwan’s ability to defend itself amid American focus of attention on a potential war in Ukraine.  

The development also came as US President Joe Biden has maintained former president Donald Trump's tariffs on Chinese products and American diplomats have continued to trade contentious statements with their Chinese counterparts.

It is widely recognized in Washington that a decades-long US policy of engagement with China produced great wealth for many companies but failed to spark Americanization of the world’s most populous nation.

This is while Qin further insisted during his latest interview that any ideas of "changing China" were always "an illusion."

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