U.S. forces can’t protect Taiwan from ultimate unification with China, the communist regime’s diplomatic team emphasized Tuesday.

“It won't work even if they try to bank on foreign forces to build themselves up,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters.

Lu offered that warning in response to President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, who called for aid against China’s bid for regional hegemony. The Chinese diplomat, in an assertion of sovereignty over the island, dismissed Tsai’s remarks as a matter that “falls within China's internal affairs” before issuing a blunter rebuke.

“We hope certain people in Taiwan could correctly understand the development trend of China and its national unity as well as the evolvement of international circumstance,” he said, “and stop moving further down the wrong path.”

China regards Taiwan — the last outpost of the nationalist government that was overthrown by the communists after the Second World War — as a breakaway province. That status between the two sides has been in a delicate balance for decades, with the United States declining to give formal recognition to Taiwan and yet providing the island government with military aid.

"This is not just Taiwan's challenge, it is a challenge for the region and the world as a whole, because today it's Taiwan, but tomorrow it may be any other country that will have to face the expansion of China's influence," Tsai told AFP. “We need to work together to reaffirm our values of democracy and freedom in order to constrain China and also minimize the expansion of their hegemonic influence."

The Trump administration sent an assistant secretary of state to visit the new headquarters of the American Institute in Taiwan, which functions as the unofficial U.S. embassy to the island, which drew a sharp complaint from China. Beijing accused the Trump administration of “severely violat[ing] the one-China principle," but U.S. officials, particularly in Congress, worry that China is gradually preparing to take control of Taiwan.

"If you look at what China is doing in the South China Sea ... they're boxing in Taiwan," Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., warned in June of 2017. "They're definitely prepping for [conflict]."

Tsai seems to share that worry. "In the face of China's threats we feel the need for us to improve self-defense capabilities," she said in the AFP interview.

Even substantial U.S. aid wouldn’t make Taiwan’s military the equal of China’s, however, although a strong Taiwan could play a strategically significant role in curtailing China’s ability to dominate the region.

“If we can help Taiwan's defenses increase — not to the point where they can win a conflict, but where they could extract a heavy price on any sort of forced unification — that becomes a balancer,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in a recent interview.