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BEIJING (AP) — China on Wednesday reaffirmed its threats to take action to block “independence separatist plots” by self-governing Taiwan, following the recent passage of Chinese navy ships through the Taiwan Strait.

Spokesman for the Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office Ma Xiaoguang made the comments in response to a question about whether the mission by a destroyer and cruiser was intended as a warning to the island’s independence-leaning government.

“We have the stern will, full confidence and sufficient capability to defeat any form of Taiwan independence separatist plots,” Ma said at a news conference.

China “absolutely will not permit Taiwan independence forces to … interfere with the course of China’s great rejuvenation,” he said in reference to Beijing’s drive to take its places among global powers.

Ma’s comments came as U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is visiting Beijing for talks, during which Chinese officials are expected to reiterate their opposition to U.S. military assistance to Taiwan.

Beijing has cut all contact with the government of Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen over her refusal to acknowledge China’s claim to the island as Chinese territory, while stepping-up its campaign to isolate Taiwan diplomatically. The sides split amid civil war in 1949 and Beijing threatens to use force to assert control over Taiwan.

China has sharply criticized moves by Congress and President Donald Trump’s administration, including closer military cooperation and high-level government exchanges with Taiwan, as encouraging Tsai’s resistance to Beijing.

“Taiwan independence is a dead-end street (and) what is harmed are the interests of the Taiwan compatriots,” Ma said. “We warn the Taiwan independence forces not to play with fire.”