Lai Ching-te has told military cadets that the mainland views annexation of the self-governing island as a national cause A Taiwanese soldier monitors the movement of Beijing’s warship on May 23, 2024. © Taiwan’s Military News Agency / Anadolu / Getty Images

Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te has warned future military officers that Beijing will stop at nothing to take control of their self-governing island.

Speaking at Taiwan’s top military academy on Sunday in Kaohsiung, Lai said cadets must understand the threats they face from mainland’s forces. Known as the Republic of China (ROC), Taiwan is recognized as a sovereign nation by only 12 of the world’s 193 countries. Officials in Beijing have vowed to reunify the island with mainland China, by force if necessary.

“The biggest challenge is to face the powerful rise of China, (which is) destroying the status quo in the Taiwan Strait and regards Taiwan’s annexation and the elimination of the Republic of China as the great rejuvenating cause of its people,” Lai said.

Beijing has denounced Lai as a “dangerous separatist.” Following his inauguration as president last month, Beijing launched military exercises around Taiwan that were billed as punishing the island for “separatist acts.” Taiwan’s military scrambled fighter jets and put its naval and ground forces on high alert in response.

Taiwan puts military on high alert Taiwan puts military on high alert

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Taiwan puts military on high alert

Lai argued in Sunday’s speech that only the Taiwanese people can decide the island’s future. “We really must be able to distinguish between ourselves and our enemies and between friend and foe.” He added that Taiwanese forces must not accept the defeatist attitude that “the first battle is the last battle,” referring to the notion that Taipei would quickly collapse in the event of an attack.

Beijing has increasingly protested against Washington’s contacts with Taipei and the US military aid to the island, arguing that such practices violate the ‘one-China’ principle.

“China remains committed to peaceful reunification; however, this prospect is increasingly being eroded by separatists for Taiwan independence and foreign forces,” Chinese Defense Minister Dong Jun warned last month.

Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan in 1949, after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong’s Communist revolutionaries. The United Nations officially recognized the Beijing government as China’s legitimate ruling authority in 1971, and the US established diplomatic relations with the mainland in 1979. The latter agreement followed Washington’s acknowledgement of the ‘one-China” principle and derecognition of Taiwanese sovereignty. (RT)