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BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s military has become alarmed by what it sees as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s support of Taiwan and is considering strong measures to prevent the island from moving toward independence, sources with ties to senior military officers said.

Three sources said one possibility being considered was conducting war games near the self-ruled island that China considers as a breakaway province. Another was a series of economic measures to cripple Taiwan.

It was not clear whether any decisions had been taken, but the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Taiwan issue had become a hot topic within the upper echelons of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in recent weeks.

Trump, due to take office on Jan 20, angered Beijing this month by speaking to Taiwan’s president by telephone, breaking decades of precedent and casting doubt on his incoming administration’s commitment to Beijing’s “one China” policy. Beijing fears this could embolden supporters of independence in Taiwan.

“If Trump challenges ‘one China‘ after becoming president, this would cross our red line,” said another source, who has ties to China’s leadership.

China’s defense ministry declined to comment. An official at the ministry’s news department said China’s position was clearly laid out in the 2005 Anti-Secession Law, which authorizes the use of force against Taiwan in the event China judges it to have seceded.

Asked about any possible aggressive moves from China, Taiwan

defense ministry spokesman Chen Chung-shi said: “We are fully

prepared, and plan for the worst while preparing for the best.”

China claims self-ruled Taiwan as its sacred and inviolable territory and is deeply suspicious of President Tsai Ing-wen, whose ruling Democratic Progressive Party espouses the island’s independence. Tsai, who took power this year, says she wants to maintain peace with China, but China is unconvinced.

Tsai said on Saturday that Taiwan will be “calm” when facing issues to do with China, but uncertainties next year will test the self-ruled island and its national security team.

Beijing has also been angered by a trip planned by Tsai in January to Latin America in which she will transit through Houston and San Francisco. China has urged the United States to block the stopovers.

Chinese officials have blamed Taiwan for creating trouble rather than Trump, and many of them believe he will be more accommodating to China once in office.

“We’re ready. If Taiwan wants to make trouble so can we. Let’s hit them hard,” said an official in Beijing who meets regularly with China’s most senior military officers, including those who work directly with President Xi Jinping.

“We can hold exercises close to Taiwan, and show them the damage we could cause. Taiwan will have to give in then,” the official added, citing a recent conversation with one of the military officers.

ONE CHINA POLICY

The United States is bound by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, but it’s unclear if the United States would send troops in the event of war between China and Taiwan.

Washington also acknowledges Beijing’s position that there is only one China and Taiwan is its territory.

A retired senior officer who maintains contacts with the PLA told Reuters that China probably wouldn’t need to fire any missiles to bring Taiwan to its knees. China is Taiwan’s largest trading partner, and Taiwan runs a huge trade surplus with China, worth $27 billion in 2015.

“We can just cut them off economically. No more direct flights, no more trade. Nothing. Taiwan would not last long,” the officer said. “There would be no need for war.”

In addition, any Western economic blockade of China put in place in the event of war with Taiwan would also be damaging to China, already dealing with a slowing economy.

A U.S. defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Chinese actions had been more provocative in the past month, since Trump won the U.S. election and made comments about Taiwan.

This month, a Chinese naval flotilla headed by its sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, took part in drills that took it around Taiwan.

Chinese air force jets have performed similar drills in recent weeks, flying close to the island, though China has officially called the air force and naval exercises routine.

China also scored a diplomatic victory when tiny Sao Tome and Principe switched recognition to Beijing from Taiwan.

(Additional reporting by J.R. Wu in Taipei and David Brunnstrom and Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

IMAGE: Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen speaks during an interview in Luque, Paraguay, June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was forced to defend President Donald Trump's recent attacks on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, an unenviable task she nevertheless intentionally signed up for. She desperately tried to divert the attention back to Scarborough — without engaging in the president's conspiracy theorizing — but offered no credible defense of the president's conduct.

Trump has been spreading the debunked theory that Scarborough killed a staffer in 2001 while he was in Congress, even though it was determined she died of natural causes. The staffer's widower wrote a released a letter on Tuesday pleading with Twitter to take down the president's offensive tweets promoting the thoery. He said he was "angry," "frustrated," and "grieved" by the president's promotion of the harmful allegations. Trump is perverting his late wife's memory, he said, and he fears her niece and nephews will encounter these attacks.When asked about the letter, McEnany said she wasn't sure if the president had seen it. But she said their "hearts" are with the woman's family "at this time." It was a deeply ironic comment because the only particularly traumatizing thing about "this time" for the family is the president's attacks, which come nearly two decades after the woman's death.

McEnany refused to offer any explanation of Trump's comments and instead redirected reporters to a clip of Scarborough on Don Imus's radio show in 2003. In that show, Imus made a tasteless joke obliquely referring to the death, and Scarborough laughed at it briefly.

"Why is the president making these unfounded allegations?" asked ABC News' Jonathan Karl. "I mean, this is pretty nuts, isn't it? The president is accusing someone of possible murder. The family is pleading with the president to please stop unfounded conspiracy theories. Why is he doing it?""The president said this morning, this is not an original Trump thought. And it is not," she said, bringing up the Imus clip. But she made no mention of why the president is bringing up the issue 17 years later and with a much larger platform.

When pressed further on the president's conduct, she again diverted blame to Scarborough, saying his morning show unfairly criticizes the president. But again, she offered no substantive defense of Trump.

After McEnany had moved on, PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor brought it up again: "Why won't the president give this widower peace and stop tweeting about the conspiracy theory involving his wife?"

McEnany said she had already answered the question, which she hadn't, and said the onus is on Scarborough to explain the Imus clip."The widower is talking specifically about the president!" Alcindor shot back. But McEnany called on Chanel Rion, with the aggressively pro-Trump outlet OAN, who changed the subject to conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia investigation.

"Are you not going to answer that?" Alcindor called out, still trying to get a substantive response to her question, but Rion spoke over her.

At the end of the briefing, another reporter asked whether Trump was looking for any actual law enforcement steps be taken in response to his conspiracy theory. But McEnany had nothing to add, and simply told people to listen to the Imus clip again. As she hurried out of the briefing room, a reporter asked if Trump would stop promoting the theory — but she left without answering.

Watch the exchange about Klausutis, which begins at 48:45.