US updates Taiwan factsheet, says it does not back independence

Washington says the update does not reflect a change in policy regarding the Chinese-claimed island.

US and Taiwanese flags
The US has said its policy towards Taiwan has not changed, but it has updated its fact sheet about the island twice recently [File: Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

The US State Department has updated its fact sheet on Taiwan again to reinstate a line about not supporting formal independence for the Chinese-claimed, democratically governed island.

The change was first reported by Taiwan’s official Central News Agency on Friday, and appears to have happened on May 28, the date at the top of the fact sheet.

“We oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side; we do not support Taiwan independence; and we expect cross-Strait differences to be resolved by peaceful means,” according to the document, referring to the strait separating the island from the Asian mainland.

Last month, the State Department changed its website on Taiwan, removing wording both on not supporting Taiwan independence and on acknowledging Beijing’s position that Taiwan is part of China, which angered Beijing.

Taiwanese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian has called on Washington to halt trade talks with Taiwan [File: Liu Zheng/AP]

Washington said the update did not reflect a change in policy. That wording has now been changed again to reinstate a line saying “we do not support Taiwan independence.”

Other US officials have echoed that position in recent weeks, saying longstanding policy has not changed.

Taiwan is already a de facto independent country, though with only very limited international recognition. Washington has no formal ties with Taipei, but is its most important international backer and arms supplier.

China’s government on Thursday accused Washington of jeopardising peace after US envoys began trade talks with Taiwan aimed at deepening relations with it.

Talks that started Wednesday cover trade, regulation and other areas based on “shared values” as market-oriented economies, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative. It did not mention China but the talks add to gestures that show US support for Taiwan amid menacing behavior by Beijing, which threatens to invade.

Trade dialogues “disrupt peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait”, said a foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian. He called on Washington to “stop negotiating agreements with Taiwan that have sovereign connotations and official nature”.

Zhao accused Washington of encouraging sentiment in Taiwan in favour of declaring formal independence, a step Beijing has said previously would be grounds for an invasion.

Taiwan’s official name remains the Republic of China, the name of the government that fled to the island in 1949 after losing a civil war with the Communist Party, which set up the People’s Republic of China with its capital in Beijing.

China’s government in 2005 passed a law giving Beijing the legal basis for military action if it judges Taiwan to have seceded or to be about to.

Taiwan’s government says only the island’s 23 million people have the right to decide their future, and while it wants peace, will defend itself if attacked.

President Joe Biden said May 23 while visiting Tokyo that the US would intervene militarily if China were to invade Taiwan. He said the US commitment to help the island defend itself was “even stronger” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A day later, Biden said the US policy towards Taiwan had not changed.

Source: News Agencies