Taiwan has long been a tense subject for China since a separate government was established on the island following the Chinese Civil War in 1949. It remains an important ally of Western countries. There are fears that, under Chinese President Xi Jinping, Beijing will use military force to reunify Taiwan with mainland China.
Now, ambassador Qin Gang has issued a brutal warning to US President Joe Biden.
He 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.”
He continued: “Let me emphasise this, the Taiwan issue is the biggest tinderbox between China and the United States.”
The ambassador said China considers Taiwan its “sacred” territory and Beijing has the right to reunify through force if the Taiwanese government formally declares independence.
He insisted China’s government does not want to attack Taiwan and said: “People on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are Chinese, so we are compatriots.
“So the last thing we should do is fight with compatriots and we will do our utmost in the greatest sincerity to achieve a peaceful reunification.”
Mr Qin blamed the current state of affairs on the Taiwanese administration.
He accused it of “seek[ing] its independence agenda by borrowing the support and the encouragement of the United States”.
Back in November, Mr Biden was accused of encouraging Taiwan’s independence after using the word to describe progress he made during a discussion with his Chinese counterpart.
He said: “I said that they have to decide – Taiwan, not us.
“We are not encouraging independence.
“We’re encouraging that they do exactly what the Taiwan Act requires.
“That’s what we’re doing. Let them make up their mind. Period.”
The South China Sea is a highly contested region and faces claims from China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Diplomatic relations between the nations are already extremely strained.
Over recent months, Beijing has asserted its dominance in the region and has built several military bases on some of the atolls.
In April last year, Taiwan unveiled a new amphibious warfare ship to land troops in the disputed region.