China has warned Taiwan an attempt to pursue independence from Beijing "means war" as it defended heightened military drills around the island.
A Chinese military spokesman said its military exercises were needed "to safeguard national sovereignty".
Beijing is concerned about perceived growing close links between Taiwan and the US.
READ MORE: China stages naval drills in disputed sea
It also believes Taiwan's democratically-elected government wants to issue a formal declaration of independence, even though the island's president Tsai Ing-wen has insisted that it is already an independent country called the Republic of China - its formal name.
But China regards the island as a renegade province of the mainland and strongly opposes diplomatic attempts by other countries to engage with Taiwan.
Beijing dispatched military aircraft - including nuclear-capable bombers - on two patrols over Taiwan airspace last weekend.
The patrols coincided with the US aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and other warships entering the disputed South China Sea for naval drills as the new Biden administration takes power.
Chinese defence ministry spokesman Colonel Wu Qian told a briefing yesterday that the patrols were needed to secure "national sovereignty".
"The military activities carried out by the Chinese People's Liberation Army in the Taiwan Strait are necessary actions to address the current security situation in the Taiwan Strait and to safeguard national sovereignty and security," he said.
Colonel Wu said a "handful" of people in Taiwan were seeking independence, Reuters reports.
"We warn those 'Taiwan independence' elements: those who play with fire will burn themselves, and 'Taiwan independence' means war," he said.
Taiwan's Defence Ministry said China on Saturday sent eight bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons and four fighter jets into its air defence identification zone just southwest of the island.
The ministry said China on Sunday sent another 16 military aircraft of various types into the same area.
The new Biden Administration has flagged it will follow former president Donald Trump's tough line against China.
"Let me just say that I also believe that President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China," Antony Blinken, Mr Biden's choice for Secretary of State, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing last week.
"I disagreed very much with the way that he went about it in a number of areas, but the basic principle was the right one, and I think that's actually helpful to our foreign policy."
Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/world/china-warns-taiwan-that-independence-means-war/7de825d4-5fda-41ef-8323-a9f0fd4914b0