Taiwan’s President Ts’ai Ing-wen

China will “destroy and expel US troops in Taiwan by military means, and at the same time realize reunification by force,” an editorial published by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece Global Times warned on August 17.

The editorial was a response to a tweet put out by United States Republican Senator John Cornyn, who mistakenly claimed that the US has 30,000 troops in Taiwan.

In fact, the US withdrew its last troops from Taiwan in 1979 as a condition for establishing diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Cornyn’s tweet, which has not yet been deleted as of the time of writing, received widespread criticism and ridicule on Twitter. The account of the KMT (Chinese Nationalist Party) tweeted:

“There are not 30,000 US troops in Taiwan! The last U.S. soldier left Taiwan on 3 May 1979.”

The Global Times pointed out that Cornyn “must have mistaken the size of US military presence in the Taiwan island before the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the US for today’s number.”

Nevertheless, the Global Times piece went on to threaten the US and Taiwan with war.

“If that is true [that US troops are stationed in Taiwan], the Chinese government and the Chinese people will never accept it. It is believed that China will immediately put the Anti-Secession Law into use, destroy and expel US troops in Taiwan by military means, and at the same time realize reunification by force.”

The Anti-Secession Law was passed by the Chinese Communist rubber-stamp legislature in 2005 to prevent “Taiwan independence.”

Article 2 of the Law states: “Taiwan is part of China. The state shall never allow the ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist forces to make Taiwan secede from China under any name or by any means.”

Article 8 threatens war if “reunification” cannot be accomplished peacefully:

“In the event that the ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist forces should act under any name or by any means to cause the fact of Taiwan’s secession from China, or that major incidents entailing Taiwan’s secession from China should occur, or that possibilities for a peaceful reunification should be completely exhausted, the state shall employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Taiwan was ceded to Japan in 1895 by the Qing dynasty – China’s last imperial rulers – after the first Sino-Japanese war.

In 1912 the Qing government was overthrown by a group of revolutionaries and the Republic of China (ROC) was established. After a period of civil strife, the KMT under the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek seized power in 1927 and set up a one-party regime.

When Japan surrendered in 1945, it handed over the administration of Taiwan to the ROC authorities according to the Cairo Declaration.

However, that year a civil war broke out between the KMT and the CCP led by Mao Zedong. The KMT lost the war and retreated to Taiwan in 1949.

The CCP claims Taiwan as part of its territory though it has never ruled it. The ROC in Taiwan remains an independent sovereign state.

The Global Times argued that the presence of US troops in Taiwan “is equivalent to a military invasion and occupation of the Taiwan Province of China. It is an act of declaring war on the People’s Republic of China.”

“If there truly are 30,000 US troops in Taiwan, or even fewer than that, it would be an extremely serious situation that crosses China’s red-line,” the piece continued. “Those US troops must withdraw from the island immediately and unconditionally, and both the US government and the Taiwan authorities should publicly apologize for this. Otherwise, we believe that an all-out war across the Taiwan Straits will break out quickly, and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will wipe out the US forces, liberate the island of Taiwan, and settle the Taiwan question once and for all.”

On August 17 the People’s Liberation Army launched joint live-fire assault drills in multiple locations near Taiwan in response to “recent collusion and provocations by the US and Taiwan secessionists,” the Global Times wrote.

Yesterday the paper likened Taiwan to Afghanistan following the US’ chaotic withdrawal from the country after 20 years of military occupation.

“[T]he rapidly changing situation in Afghanistan has even worried some in the island of Taiwan and sounded a warning bell to secessionists there,” the Global Times claimed. “[T]he failure of the US in Afghanistan should serve as a warning to the secessionists in the island, who have to understand that they cannot count on Washington, as Afghanistan is not the first place where the US abandoned its allies …”

In April, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview with Meet the Press that the US has a commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to make sure that Taiwan has the ability to “defend itself and to make sure that we are maintaining peace and security in the western Pacific.”

Blinken added that the US stands behind these commitments and it would be a “serious mistake for anyone to try to change the existing status quo by force.”

However, he refused to say whether the US would intervene militarily if Beijing attacked Taiwan.

Joseph Hwang, a professor at Chung Yuan Christian University in Taiwan, told Vox in May: “The Chinese government is looking for a good time to push for reunification by force. They just haven’t found the right time yet.”