US sending ‘dangerous signals’ on Taiwan, China tells Blinken

Tensions over Taiwan have soared since US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island in August.

A demonstrator holds a sign in support of China during Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen's stop-over in California, United States in 2017 [Stephen Lam/Reuters]
A demonstrator holds a sign in support of China during Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen's stopover in California, the United States in 2017 [File: Stephen Lam/Reuters]

China has accused the United States of sending “very wrong, dangerous signals” on Taiwan, and has told Washington that it had “no right to interfere” in whatever methods Beijing may use to “resolve” the Taiwan issue.

Taiwan was the focus of 90 minutes of “direct and honest” talks between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Friday, a US official told reporters.

“The secretary made crystal clear that, in accordance with our longstanding one-China policy, which again has not changed, the maintenance of peace and stability across the Strait is absolutely, vitally important,” the senior US administration official said.

China’s foreign ministry, in a statement on the meeting, said Washington was sending “very wrong, dangerous signals” about Taiwan, and the more rampant Taiwan’s independence activity, the less likely there would be a peaceful settlement.

“The Taiwan issue is an internal Chinese matter, and the United States has no right to interfere in what method will be used to resolve it,” the ministry cited Wang as saying.

Chinese state media said that Wang’s meeting with Blinken addressed China’s position on the “wrong behaviour” of the US towards Taiwan.

“We must clearly oppose and prevent ‘Taiwan independence’,” China’s Global Times news outlet cited Wang as telling Blinken.

Tensions over Taiwan have soared since a visit there in August by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi – which was followed by large-scale Chinese military drills – as well as a recent pledge by US President Joe Biden to defend the democratically governed island.

Biden’s statement was his most explicit to date about committing US troops to defend Taiwan.

Wang had a similar message for the United Kingdom’s foreign minister James Cleverly during a meeting earlier this week, also on the sidelines of the UNGA in New York.

Wang said the UK should “honour its one-China commitment and unequivocally oppose ‘Taiwan independence’,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement. 

No change of policy

The White House has insisted its Taiwan policy has not changed, but China said Biden’s remarks sent the wrong signal to those seeking an independent Taiwan.

China sees Taiwan as one of its provinces. Beijing has long promised to bring Taiwan under its control and has not ruled out the use of force to do so.

Taiwan’s government strongly objects to China’s sovereignty claims and says only the island’s 23 million people can decide its future.

In a phone call with Biden in July, Chinese leader Xi Jinping warned about Taiwan, saying “those who play with fire will perish by it”.

The State Department had said earlier that Blinken’s meeting with Wang on Friday was part of a US effort to “maintain open lines of communication and manage competition responsibly”.

Daniel Russel, the top US diplomat for Asia under President Barack Obama, said the fact Blinken and Wang had met was important after the turbulence brought by Pelosi’s visit.

Russel said that hopefully some progress would have been made towards arranging a meeting between Xi and Biden on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in November, which would be their first in person as leaders.

“Wang and Blinken’s decision to meet in New York does not guarantee the November summit will go smoothly or that it will even occur. But had they been unable to meet, it would have meant the prospects for a summit in November were poor,” said Russel, now with the Asia Society Policy Institute.

In a speech to the Asia Society in New York on Thursday, Wang said the Taiwan question was growing into the biggest risk in China-US relations.

“Should it be mishandled, it is most likely to devastate our bilateral ties,” Wang said, according to a transcript from the Chinese embassy.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies