FILE - A Chinese military officers salutes Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, as he leaves after the opening session of the annual meeting of China's National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2022. A conflict with China, which threatens to invade Taiwan, would be a disaster for all sides regardless of the outcome, Taiwan's defense minister said Thursday, March 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Sam McNeil, File)

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — A conflict with China, which threatens to invade Taiwan, would be a disaster for all sides regardless of the outcome, the island’s defense minister said Thursday.

China has largely backed Russia in invading Ukraine, a conflict that has echoes in Beijing’s approach to Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy that it claims as Chinese territory to be annexed by force if necessary.

“Nobody wants a war,” Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng told reporters. “It really has to be thoroughly thought over.”

“If you really went to war, it would be disastrous for all,” Chiu said. Taiwan’s defense establishment “watches and listens but we keep our mouths shut. We are following developments and preparing ourselves but we don’t openly discuss or debate.”

At the annual meetings of China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress, and its advisory body this week in Beijing, delegates blamed foreign influence and separatism in Taiwan while increasing China’s legal and financial might to counter Taiwan support.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the People’s Liberation Army delegation at the NPC said, “Separatist activities and collusion with external forces are the root cause of the current tension and disturbance in the Taiwan Strait.”

Col. Wu Qian blamed Taiwan’s ruling pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, adding that, “The more the United States and Japan make waves on the Taiwan question, the tougher actions we will take to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Wu also defended the defense budget increase, saying China has “maintained reasonable and steady growth to tackle complex security challenges and fulfill China’s responsibility as a major country.”

Separately, a member of the advisory body to China’s ceremonial legislature proposed strengthening a 2005 secession law spelling out the grounds for an attack on Taiwan. Zhang Liangqi said new legislation was needed to target those promoting Taiwan’s formal and permanent independence from China, from which it split amid civil war in 1949.

In what it calls a warning to Taiwan independence supporters and their foreign allies, China has been staging threatening exercises and flying military planes near the island’s airspace, including on Feb. 24, the day Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.

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