A Chinese government spokesman said on Wednesday the country’s military exercises around Taiwan were 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 was “very clear,” spokesman for the Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office, An Fengshan, said at a regular news briefing.

“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.

Beijing again flexes military muscle, sending fighter jets, bombers around Taiwan

Beijing 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 mainland China at the end of the second world war, but separated from the mainland in 1949 after the Nationalists fled after losing the civil war against communist forces.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has refused Beijing’s demand that she recognise Taiwan as a part of China since her election in 2016. 

That has 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. 

Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen willing to meet Xi Jinping ‘for peace and stability’

China last month held drills on its side of the Taiwan Strait and has repeatedly sailed its sole operating aircraft carrier through the 160-kilometre (100-mile) wide waterway.

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

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