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China appears to wind down threatening wargames near Taiwan

BEIJING (AP) — China on Wednesday repeated military threats against Taiwan while appearing to wind down wargames near the self-governing island it claims as its own territory that have raised tensions between the two sides to their highest level in years.

The message in a lengthy policy statement issued by the Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office and its news department followed almost a week of missile firings and incursions into Taiwanese waters and airspace by Chinese warships and air force planes.

The actions disrupted flights and shipping in a region crucial to global supply chains, prompting strong condemnation from the U.S., Japan and others.

An English-language version of the Chinese statement said Beijing would “work with the greatest sincerity and exert our utmost efforts to achieve peaceful reunification.”

“But we will not renounce the use of force, and we reserve the option of taking all necessary measures. This is to guard against external interference and all separatist activities,” it said.

“We will always be ready to respond with the use of force or other necessary means to interference by external forces or radical action by separatist elements. Our ultimate goal is to ensure the prospects of China’s peaceful reunification and advance this process,” it said.

China says its threatening moves were prompted by a visit to Taiwan last week by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but Taiwan says such visits are routine and that China used her trip merely as a pretext to up its threats.

In an additional response to Pelosi’s visit, China said it was cutting off dialogue on issues from maritime security to climate change with the U.S., Taiwan’s chief military and political backer.

Taiwan’s foreign minister warned Tuesday that the Chinese military drills reflect ambitions to control large swaths of the western Pacific, while Taipei conducted its own exercises to underscore its readiness to defend itself.

Beijing’s strategy would include controlling the East and South China seas via the Taiwan Strait and imposing a blockade to prevent the U.S. and its allies from aiding Taiwan in the event of an attack, Joseph Wu told a news conference in Taipei.

Beijing extended the ongoing exercises without announcing when they would end, although they appeared to have run their course for the time being.

China’s Defense Ministry and its Eastern Theater Command both issued statements saying the exercises had achieved their targets of sending a warning to those favoring Taiwan’s formal independence and their foreign backers.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party administration are “pushing Taiwan into the abyss of disaster and sooner or later will be nailed to the pillar of historical shame!” Defense Ministry spokesperson Col. Tan Kefei was quoted as saying in a statement on the ministry’s website.

Troops taking part in the exercises had “effectively tested integrated joint combat capabilities,” the Eastern Theater Command said on its Twitter-like Weixin microblog.

“The theater troops will monitor changes in the situation in the Taiwan Strait, continue to conduct military training and preparations, organize regular combat readiness patrols in the Taiwan Strait, and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” spokesperson Col. Shi Yi was quoted as saying.

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