China’s defense minister: Resolving ‘Taiwan question’ is greatest national interest

China’s defense minister, Wei Fenghe, said on Monday that resolving the “Taiwan question” is his country’s “greatest national interest”, and that no force could prevent China’s “reunification”.

Separatist activities are doomed to failure, Wei said at the opening of the Xiangshan Forum in Beijing, which China styles as its answer to the annual Shangri-La Dialogue security forum in Singapore.

Tensions between China and Taiwan have ratcheted up ahead of the self-ruled island’s presidential election in January. Taiwan is China’s most sensitive territorial issue.

“China is the only major country in the world that is yet to be completely reunified,” Wei said.

“Resolving the Taiwan question so as to realize China’s full reunification is the irresistible trend of the times, China’s greatest national interest, the righteous path to follow and the longing of all Chinese people.”

Proudly democratic Taiwan has lambasted China for its authoritarian rule and for being a threat to regional peace, while China has heaped pressure on Taiwan, whittling away at its few remaining diplomatic allies.

China regards Taiwan as its sacred territory, to be brought under Beijing’s rule, by force if needed, a message President Xi Jinping reiterated at the start of this year.

China translates the word “tong yi” as “reunification”, but it can also be translated as “unification”, a term in English preferred by supporters of Taiwan independence who point out that Beijing’s Communist government has never ruled Taiwan and so it cannot be “reunified”.