'The historical task of the complete reunification of the motherland must be fulfilled and will be fulfilled.'
China's President Xi Jinping said on Saturday that "peaceful reunification" with Taiwan "will be and can be realized", as tensions between Beijing and Taipei soared days after record numbers of Chinese warplanes crossed into the democratic island's air defense zone.
Self-governed Taiwan, which has never formally declared independence, lives under the constant threat of invasion by China, which views the island as its territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary.
"Realizing national reunification by peaceful means best serves the interests of the nation as a whole including our brethren in Taiwan," Xi said in a speech marking the 110th anniversary of a revolution that ended millennia of imperial rule and led to the founding of the Republic of China.
Speaking at Beijing's Great Hall of the People, Xi said the Chinese people have a "glorious tradition" of opposing separatism.
"Taiwan independence separatism is the biggest obstacle to achieving the reunification of the motherland, and the most serious hidden danger to national rejuvenation," he said.
Peaceful "reunification" best meets the overall interests of the Taiwanese people, but China will protect its sovereignty and unity, he added.
"No one should underestimate the Chinese people's staunch determination, firm will, and strong ability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity," Xi said. "The historical task of the complete reunification of the motherland must be fulfilled, and will definitely be fulfilled."
He struck a slightly softer tone than in July, his last major speech mentioning Taiwan, in which he vowed to "smash" any attempts at formal independence. In 2019, he directly threatened to use force to bring the island under Beijing's control.