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File photo: Ma Xiaoguang, spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council. [Photo/chinadaily.com.cn]

Experts: Security issues being used as pretext to gain support in coming vote

A spokesman for the Chinese mainland slammed the United States and Taiwan separatists on Wednesday for trying to undermine China"s territorial integrity with their recent military interactions and pro-secession rhetoric.

Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, said at a news conference on Wednesday that China resolutely opposes any official interaction or military dialogue between the US and Taiwan.

"The US should handle the Taiwan question carefully and properly, so as not to damage Sino-US ties, or peace and security in the Taiwan Straits," he said.

Experts said such actions are detrimental to peace and security across the Taiwan Straits, as separatists are desperate to win votes in the election next year by hyping security issues and attempting to draw international support for their goal.

Last week, the American Institute in Taiwan officially acknowledged that military personnel have been posted at its office since 2005, and US weapons manufacturer Raytheon was granted a $9 million contract to upgrade Taiwan"s Patriot missile defense system.

On March 31, two Chinese People"s Liberation Army Air Force Shenyang J-11 fighter jets flew across the so-called median line of the Taiwan Straits, prompting a strong reaction by Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen. She vowed a "forceful expulsion" of mainland fighters should they cross the line again.

A former official on the island, Lai Ching-te, said in a recent interview that the pro-secession Democratic Progressive Party, of which Tsai and Lai are members, is protecting Taiwan by pursuing independence.

Responding to both questions, Ma said the flight was part of the PLA"s scheduled exercise this year.

"Protecting national sovereignty and territorial integrity is the sacred duty of the PLA," he said. "Tsai"s wild talk means she is scared. We warn them not to play with fire. Don"t even think about it."

As for Lai"s comment, Ma said it was an example of "confusing right and wrong".

"The mainland and Taiwan belong to a single China, and Taiwan is an inseparable part of the whole," he said. "If Lai continues to pursue his selfish goal by playing with the fire known as Taiwan secession, it is very dangerous. Separating Taiwan will only bring calamity to its people."

Tang Yonghong, deputy director of the Taiwan Research Center at Xiamen University, said Taiwan"s current administration has failed to improve the island"s economy and people"s livelihoods, so it has to trump up security issues and turn to external forces to win support for the upcoming election.

"Taiwan"s current administration knows it cannot achieve independence by itself, so it has to rely on foreign support, especially from the US," he said. "The US also wants to take advantage of Taiwan to pressure the Chinese mainland, especially since the US now sees the mainland as its primary competitor."

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act, so Tsai and her pro-secession supporters are using this occasion to bolster ties with the US, hoping to receive more support, Tang said.

"But the US is pragmatic. It will give some degree of support and hope to Taiwan"s current administration, but it will not defend Taiwan with actual soldiers," he said. "The Taiwan residents have various needs, but security and economic development are the top two priorities."

He added: "If the island"s prosecession faction were to play the security card so much that it disrupted the peace and security of the Taiwan Straits, the voters in Taiwan will not support the DPP and separatists because they do not want to risk conflict with the mainland."

Xiu Chunping, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences" Institute of Taiwan Studies, said the recent radical rhetoric by DPP leaders was intended to draw attention to pro-secession politicians and voters.

"The DPP is desperate because its administration has no better way to generate attention and support for the upcoming election," she said. "Recent support from the US also gave them some confidence to boast."