Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) yesterday said that a “peaceful reunification” of Taiwan and China was in Beijing’s interests, despite increased military threats against the nation.
Xi spoke at an official celebration in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People that focused largely on the need for the Chinese Communist Party to continue to lead China as the country rises in power and influence.
“Reunification of the nation must be realized, and will definitely be realized,” Xi said before an audience of politicians, military personnel and others gathered in the hulking chamber that serves as the seat of China’s ceremonial legislature.
“Reunification through a peaceful manner is the most in line with the overall interest of the Chinese nation, including Taiwan compatriots,” he added.
He also warned against foreign interference in Taiwan after a Pentagon official confirmed that US special operations forces have been quietly training Taiwanese troops for months.
“The Taiwan issue is purely China’s internal affair and does not allow any external interference,” he said.
Xi’s remarks came just days after the Chinese military sent a record number of military aircraft flying toward Taiwan in exercises that Taipei has called a threat. Over the course of four days, starting last week, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army flew fighter jets, bombers and airborne early warning aircraft toward Taiwan 149 times, with the largest single maneuver involving 52 aircraft.
This year’s Double Ten National Day celebrations in Taiwan are to feature a rare display of military equipment, including missiles, and a performance by fighter jets to be held today at the Presidential Office Building in Taipei.
That marks the first inclusion of military hardware in the nation’s official celebrations in years, and the first since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in 2016.
Local media coverage of rehearsals for the celebration showed large missile launch vehicles driving on Taipei’s streets, although the missiles were not directly visible.
In the past, the government has kept its missile capabilities out of the public eye to avoid appearing provocative, said Kuo Yu-jen (郭育仁), a defense studies expert at the Institute for National Policy Research.
Taipei feels that it “must demonstrate that Taiwan has the ability to deter China’s threat” as Beijing becomes “overly assertive,” Kuo said.
Previous celebrations featured choreographed performances by motorcycle-riding military police and overflights by Taiwan’s air force.
However, missiles were not part of those displays.
“I think this is to raise Taiwan’s people’s morale,” said Fan Shih-ping (范世平), a professor of political science at National Taiwan Normal University.
Tsai has placed a higher premium on national defense than her predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), launching a revitalization of the nation’s shipbuilding industry and commissioning a program to build submarines domestically.
She has also instituted reforms in the military, including improving benefits for military personnel and increasing the quality of food served in the messes.
Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) told legislators on Wednesday that the situation with China “is the most severe in the 40 years since I’ve enlisted.”
Chiu later told reporters that he believed China would have “comprehensive” capabilities to invade Taiwan by 2025.
Additional reporting by AFP
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