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China Says It Faces Threats From Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang

January 21, 2009

BEIJING Tuesday January 20th, 2009 (AFP)--Separatist forces in Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang remain major threats to China's security, a senior military official said Tuesday.
 
Defense ministry spokesman Hu Changming highlighted the three areas as he outlined the nation's top military priorities, and warned that their actions wouldn't be tolerated.
 
"Taiwan independence, East Turkestan, Tibetan independence and other separatist forces form a major security threat to the unity of the nation and a challenge to our security organs," Hu said.
 
"On these issues there can be no compromise and no tolerance."
 
Hu was speaking at the launch of "China's National Defense in 2008," a policy paper in which Beijing pledged to maintain "a purely defensive" stance in its robust military buildup.
 
China and Taiwan split in 1949 after retreating Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of a civil war.
 
The mainland's communist rulers have since viewed self-governed Taiwan as Chinese territory awaiting unification, by force if necessary.
 
China also insists it faces an independence movement in Tibet, as well as forces trying to re-establish a short-lived East Turkestan republic in its westernmost Xinjiang region, which is largely populated by ethnic Uighur Muslims.
 
"These problems are all linked to the fundamental interests of our people and the core interests of the nation," Hu said.
"The People's Liberation Army will resolutely uphold the sacred task of safeguarding state sovereignty, security and territorial integrity."
 
China's military was last year called in to quell violent protests by Tibetans, many of whom have long complained of widespread political and religious repression under Chinese rule.
 
Security remains extremely tight in the Himalayan region and in Xinjiang, where the Chinese government says Muslim extremists carried out deadly attacks on police and civilians last year.
 
But Hu said a recent warming of relations between Beijing and Taiwan offered a good opportunity for the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to begin seeking to establish military exchanges.
 
"To discuss the establishment of a mutual trust mechanism in military affairs is in the interests of reducing military security concerns and in helping promote stability across the strait," Hu said.
 
As part of a rapprochement that began with the election of China-friendly Ma Ying-jeou as Taiwan's president last year, the two sides in December began direct daily flights, postal and shipping services.
 
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