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China threatens US: There will be 'military conflict' if Biden supports Taiwanese independence

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MANDY CHENG/AFP via Getty Images

In what could be read as either a warning or a threat, China's ambassador to the United States said Thursday there will be "military conflict" between the U.S. and China should the island nation of Taiwan attempt to become fully independent from Xi Jinping's communist regime.

In an interview with NPR, ambassador Qin Gang asserted that Taiwan is "walking down the road toward independence" and said, "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 a military conflict."

While Russian aggression on Ukraine's borders may precipitate war in Eastern Europe, China is taking increasingly aggressive action toward Taiwan under President Joe Biden's watch. Days ago, Chinese warplanes flew through Taiwan's southwestern Air Defense Identification Zone in what was the largest incursion on Taiwanese territory since last October, when China few 38 planes, including bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons, through the ADIZ.

The People's Republic of China has long claimed sovereignty over Taiwan, which is the last foothold of the old pre-communist Chinese government and a democracy. Last year, dictator Xi pledged to "reunify" Taiwan with mainland China and "smash" any attempts by the island nation to achieve independence from the PRC.

The United States has traditionally supported Taiwan's right to be free of "force or threat" from the PRC. President Barack Obama's administration sold $1.83 billion worth of arms to the Taiwanese military in 2015, which was opposed by the PRC. As a candidate for president, Joe Biden said that the U.S. has a "commitment" to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack. But since assuming office and talking with Xi, Biden has backed down and said the future of Taiwan is in the country's own hands.

"We are not encouraging independence," Biden said in November.

Though Biden has made noncommittal statements about Taiwan, Qin said the region's status remains "the biggest tinderbox" in U.S.-Chinese relations. He denied that China wants to pursue war to take control of Taiwan.

"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. And we will do our utmost in the greatest sincerity to achieve a peaceful reunification," Qin said. "But ... that Taiwanese authority is working down the road towards independence, emboldened by the United States. So China will not commit to giving up the un-peaceful means for reunification because this is a deterrence."

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