China is “preparing for its final military assault” on Taiwan, the island’s foreign minister has told Sky News, as he vowed to “defend ourselves to the very end”.

In an exclusive interview, Joseph Wu said that China had “been conducting misinformation campaigns, hybrid warfare, and recently they have increased their grey zone activities against Taiwan“.

“And all these seem to be preparing for their final military assault against Taiwan,” he added.

“This is our country, this is our people and this is our way of life. We will defend ourselves to the very end.

“Taiwan happens to be on the frontline of China’s expansion of its authoritarian order. And if Taiwan is taken by China, I think the consequences will be global.”

Mr Wu also praised the UK’s decision to send the HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier, to the region.

“For the UK to think about sending military surface ships to this part of the world, to show that the UK cares, is also welcomed,” he said.

More from China

Chinese military aircraft have been making almost daily incursions into Taiwan’s air identification defence zone recently, with April being a record month.

This week, it also sent its Liaoning aircraft carrier on a course to the east of Taiwan – the second such manoeuvre in recent weeks.

Taiwan says it is an independent country, with its own government, military and elections.

China insists the island is part of its territory and has vowed to claim it by force if necessary or if the territory “secedes” from China.

At a recent press briefing in Beijing, Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for China’s ministry of foreign affairs, said: “China must and will be reunified.

“We are willing to do our utmost to strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification, but will never leave any room for any forms of ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist activities.”

Mr Wu insisted that formal independence was not his government’s intention – merely the preservation of the currently ambiguous status quo.

Taiwan is not recognised as a state by many countries, including the US and UK, but still maintains unofficial relations with them.

“Listen to the policy statements of this government, including the president (Tsai Ing-wen) herself,” he told Sky News.

“We are trying to safeguard the status quo that Taiwan is a free and democratic country, that Taiwan is not run by China.”

There has been an increase in Chinese military pressure since September last year. Mr Wu suggested this was because of domestic weakness in China.

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January: Taiwan military simulates China attack

“Very often an authoritarian state experiencing difficulties will actively create a crisis externally to divert domestic attention,” he said.

“This is the situation we see right now. If you look at the economic situation of China, since the trade war between the United States and China – China suffered. Growth is declining.

“And last year, when COVID was rampaging the rest of the world, China suffered tremendously as well.

“Under these sort of circumstances, it’s quite natural for an authoritarian country to think about creating its own historical legacy.

“Taiwan is a historical legacy and we are watching very carefully.”