Beijing's ambassador to Washington made clear that if the Taiwanese authorities keep going down the road for independence with the US support, this will 'most likely' result in military conflict.

China considers neighboring Taiwan its
China considers neighboring Taiwan its "sacred" territory and has never renounced the use of force to ensure eventual unification. (Reuters)

China and the United States could end up in a military conflict if the United States encourages Taiwan's independence.

Beijing's ambassador to Washington Qin Gang spoke to National Public Radio (NPR) in an interview on Friday to make clear the Taiwan issue.

"Let me emphasize this. The Taiwan issue is the biggest tinder-box between China and the United States," Qin Gang said.

"If the Taiwanese authorities, emboldened by the United States, keep going down the road for independence, it most likely (will) involve China and the United States, the two big countries, in a military conflict," he said.

China considers the neighboring, democratically ruled island of Taiwan its "sacred" territory and has never renounced the use of force to ensure eventual unification.

Asked to comment, the US Defense Department said the United States remained committed to its "one China" policy and its commitments under the US Taiwan Relations Act.

Under the long-standing policy, Washington officially recognizes Beijing rather than Taipei, while the act requires the United States to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself.

READ MORE: Taiwan reports largest Chinese air force raid since October

Escalating tensions 

While Chinese officials have warned of military action over Taiwan, it is unusual for them to link it directly to the United States.

Tensions between Beijing and Taipei have escalated in recent months as China's military has conducted repeated air missions over the Taiwan Strait, the waterway separating the island from China.

US President Joe Biden has said that Washington was not encouraging independence for Taiwan, but he caused a stir in October when he said it would come to the island's defence if China attacked.

The latter remark appeared to depart from Washington's long-held policy of "strategic ambiguity" - not making clear how the United States would respond - though the White House quickly said Biden was not signalling a change in policy.

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, told Congress last year China wants the ability to invade and hold Taiwan within the next six years, but might not intend to do so in the near term.

READ MORE: Taiwan troops simulate urban warfare fearing China invasion

Source: TRTWorld and agencies