An unofficial US delegation to Taiwan has further escalated tensions between the US and China.
Former US Senator Chris Dodd and two former US Deputy Secretaries of State are traveling to Taiwan this week at the behest of President Joe Biden to celebrate the 42nd anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act. Biden voted for the law, which established friendly relations with Taiwan as official U.S. policy, when he was a senator.
Beijing on Wednesday condemned the interaction between the United States and Taiwan. Lijian Zhao, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, warned the United States not to send “false signals to the separatist separatist forces in Taiwan” at a press conference.
“We urge the US side to strictly adhere to the one-China principle,” the spokesperson said. “Immediately stop all official interactions with the Taiwan region.”
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The State Department unveiled new guidelines last week, giving U.S. officials more freedom to contact their Taiwanese counterparts.
This bundled together some restrictions that had been lifted by the Trump administration. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lifted all restrictions on contacts with Taiwan days before stepping down.
Dodd, the former senator, and former assistant secretaries of state Richard Armitage and James Steinberg arrived in Taipei on Wednesday.
Upon their arrival, the Taiwanese Foreign Ministry tweeted: “The presence of the statesmen and friends of #Taiwan is a strong vote of #US confidence in the country and its people loving freedom and democracy.”
During their three-day stay, the delegation will meet with Taiwanese officials to discuss national security, foreign affairs and national defense.
The delegation met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Thursday.
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“[This sends] an important signal about the US commitment to Taiwan and its democracy, ”a senior official in the Biden administration told Reuters.
And it followed “a long bipartisan tradition of US administrations sending high-level unofficial delegations to Taiwan,” they added.
Asked about the meeting with Tsai at a press conference, Lijian Zhao stressed that “Tsai Ing-wen is only the head of a Chinese region”.
Zhao also warned Washington to stop meddling in the Taiwan-related issue to “avoid further serious damage to Sino-US relations and to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
Beijing stepped up military action around the island claimed by China, including flying 10 fighter jets in Taiwan’s air defense identification zone earlier this month, according to the Associated Press.
The status of self-governing Taiwan is perhaps the most sensitive diplomatic issue between the United States and China. In early December 2016, then-President-elect Donald Trump received a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. The 10-minute phone call angered Beijing.
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China has lodged a diplomatic protest against the exchange, fearing it may influence Washington’s long-standing policy of recognizing the “one-China” policy, which claims the self-governing democratic island is part of the China.
“For China, the Taiwan issue is as important as anything on their list,” President Barack Obama said at a press conference days after the 2016 phone call.
Obama warned his successor that a change in US policy in Taiwan could have far-reaching consequences.
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