China's threat comes amid a series of provocative actions and warnings in recent days by the Chinese military (PLA) including a series of air and naval incursions into territory Taiwan claims as its own.
"The PLA exercises are not only warnings, but also show real capabilities and pragmatically practicing reunifying the island, if it comes to that," an unnamed source told the Chinese state news service Global Times in an article published Friday morning. They added that the people of Taiwan are "dashing into a war that they cannot win."
The U.S., which has increasingly backed Taiwan's autonomy in recent months amid the threat posed by China's perceived expansionism, has escalated its response in recent days, including Navy patrols by the USS John McCain in international waters known as "freedom of navigation operations" to contest Beijing's claims over regional waters.
The Pentagon was careful this week not to tie the operations directly to Chinese behavior.
"We don't conduct Freedom of Navigation Operations around the world to send – to respond to some specific event or the specific action of another country," spokesman John Kirby revealed to reporters on Wednesday when asked about the ship's presence. "We conduct Freedom of Navigation Operations around the world to send a message about how strongly we believe in international law and in the freedom that all nations have to sail, operate and fly in accordance with that international law. Freedom of the seas doesn't just exist for fish and icebergs and that's the purpose of conducting these operations, to reinforce that notion."
However, American military officials have in recent weeks have increasingly warned about the threat China poses to Taiwan, publicly expressing fears that Beijing may move to reunite the island nation with the mainland by force in the near future.
Navy Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific at the time, warned during his final testimony to Congress before retiring that he believes China may invade Taiwan within six years. Adm. Mike Gilday, the Navy's top officer, stated during a Wednesday event organized by the Center for a New American Security, "I don't think we should ignore that possibility."
Deterring and containing China has become one of the thorniest foreign policy issues President Joe Biden faces amid a sharp rise in tensions between the two global powers over the last year. Analysts remain concerned that China increasingly believes the U.S. is not willing to enter a war over Taiwan's autonomy.
State Department spokesman Ned Price this week expressed "great concern" about what he considers China's systematic efforts to intimidate its neighbors, including Taiwan.
"The United States maintains the capacity to resist any resort to force or any other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security or the social or economic system of the people of Taiwan," he concluded.