China has urged the United States to stop boosting ties with Taiwan after Washington and Taipei announced they would hold economic talks later in November, a move Taiwan’s government described as a “major milestone” in relations.
China considers the self-ruled island of Taiwan its own territory with no right to form official ties with other countries and has watched with growing alarm as the US stepped up its support for the island, including new arms sales and visits to Taipei by senior US officials.
The US Congress in 2017 passed the Taiwan Travel Act, encouraging closer ties between US and Taiwanese officials via official visits thus paving the way for a ground-breaking trip by US Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar earlier this year. Mr Azar was the highest-ranking US official to visit Taiwan in 40 years.
Taiwan’s government announced it will send a small delegation to Washington, led by Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Chen Chern-chy for November 20’s inaugural meeting of the US-Taiwan Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue.
US Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, Keith Krach, who angered China with a visit to Taipei in September, will lead the US side.
Speaking at a daily news briefing in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin said they opposed any official exchanges between Washington and Taipei.
He added that China urges the US to “stop any kind of official exchanges or contacts with Taiwan and stop elevating substantive relations.”
On the other hand, Taiwan’s foreign ministry hailed the talks.
“This dialogue is a major milestone in Taiwan-US economic relations. It demonstrates that Taiwan and the United States will develop closer and broader cooperation under their global economic strategic partnership,” it said in a statement.
Mr Krach was the most senior State Department official to visit Taiwan in four decades after being named to head a new bilateral economic dialogue with the island.
US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo told reporters that the talks would include ensuring safe and secure supply chains and 5G security.
“The dialogue signifies that our economic relationship with Taiwan, a vibrant democracy and a reliable partner, is strong and growing,” he added.
Taiwan has long sought a free trade agreement with the US.
During President Trump’s four years in office, Washington has also sold $15bn worth of weapons to Taiwan and approved $7bn more in September, a collection that includes drones, fighter jets and cruise missiles.
Whiles Donald Trump is a popular figure in Taiwan due to his administration’s support for the island, Taipei’s government has moved to assure people that President-elect Joe Biden will continue that backing.
“There may be changes in the US government and personnel, but we are confident in the continued development of Taiwan-US relations,” Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said.
While a presidential candidate, Biden published an op-ed in The World Journal, the largest circulation Chinese language newspaper in the US, where he pledged “to continue deepening our ties with Taiwan, a leading democracy, major economy, technology powerhouse – and a shining example of how an open society can effectively contain COVID-19.”