China’s President Hu Jintao warned Taiwan on Thursday against any moves towards independence but called for the two sides to continue the exchanges that have helped ease their longtime rivalry.
“We resolutely oppose any separatist attempt for Taiwan independence,” Hu said in an address to his ruling Communist Party’s five-yearly congress.
“The Chinese people will never allow anyone or any force to separate Taiwan from the motherland by any means,” Hu said in the speech, in which he also stated his country’s intention to become a “maritime power” and further build up its military.
China regularly issues such warnings on Taiwan but relations between the two sides have warmed considerably under Hu. Semi-official talks between China and Taiwan resumed in 2008 after being suspended for more than a decade.
Hu will hand over leadership of the party at the end of the congress next Wednesday and step down as president in March.
He said the two sides “should sustain cross-straits exchanges and cooperation,” and “promote consultation on an equal footing”.
“We should fully protect the rights and interests of our Taiwan compatriots,” he said.
The two sides split at the end of a civil war in 1949 but China still claims Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification.
China is Taiwan’s largest trading partner and the island’s main investment destination. But many Taiwanese are wary of the military threat posed by China, which has threatened to invade if the island declares independence.