Friday , September 21 2018

Taiwan leader irks Beijing with rare US speech

China blasts US military bill

BEIJING, Aug 14, (Agencies): China on Tuesday blasted a US military spending bill that calls for development of plans to help self-ruled Taiwan improve its defenses and warned of possible damage to cooperation in other areas.

The Taiwan provision in the 2019 military budget authorization “is full of cold war thinking” and “interferes in China’s internal affairs,” said a Ministry of Defense statement.

Beijing claims Taiwan, which split with the mainland in 1949, as part of its territory and has threatened to invade. Washington has no official relations with the island’s democratically elected government but is obliged by US law to see that it has the means necessary to defend itself.

A separate Foreign Ministry statement called on Washington to “avoid damaging Chinese-US relations and cooperation in important areas.” It gave no details but the two governments are working together on efforts to persuade North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to give up nuclear weapons development.

The criticism adds to a series of US-Chinese conflicts over tariffs, Beijing’s claims to the South China Sea and other irritants that have soured relations between governments of the world’s two biggest economies.

American lawmakers said the legislation signed Monday by President Donald Trump responds to concern about Beijing’s growing military strength and confrontational stance toward its neighbors. The measure also expands the jurisdiction of a US government security panel to screen foreign investments. That was proposed in response to concern Chinese corporate acquisitions might help Beijing obtain sensitive technologies and information.

The legislation’s Taiwan provision “damages mutual trust” and “ruins the atmosphere” for military cooperation, said the Defense Ministry statement.

Taiwan is “the most important and sensitive core issue in Chinese-US relations,” it said. “We firmly oppose any official exchanges and military contacts between any country and Taiwan.”

Beijing has stepped up efforts to isolate Taiwan internationally. It has ordered airlines, retailers and publishers to refer to the island as part of China on websites and in books and maps. It is lobbying the few countries that still recognize Taipei as a sovereign government to switch ties to Beijing.

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LOS ANGELES: Taiwan’s president has given a speech in the United States – the first time in 15 years that a leader of the island has spoken publicly on American soil – prompting an official protest from Beijing.

During a stopover en route to Paraguay, Tsai Ing-wen, whose government refuses to endorse Beijing’s view that Taiwan is part of China, vowed to defend democratic values.

“We will keep our pledge that we are willing to jointly promote regional stability and peace under the principles of national interests, freedom and democracy,” she said on Monday.

China views Taiwan as part of its own territory – to be reunified by force if necessary – even though the two sides split in 1949 after a civil war.

Beijing is always swift to condemn any move that could be interpreted as de facto diplomatic recognition of the government in Taipei and has stepped up pressure on Taiwan since Tsai, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), came to power in 2016. Tsai made her speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, whose namesake she praised for his contribution to Taiwan-US relations, including a commitment not to pressure Taipei to negotiate with Beijing.

“Everything was negotiable except two things: our freedom and our future,” she quoted from Reagan’s remarks in her talk, adding that this is also the sentiment of Taiwanese people at the moment. Her transit in Los Angeles was the most high-profile since former Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian’s 2003 stopover in New York, where he accepted a human rights award and delivered several public speeches.

Washington switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei in 1979, but it remains the island’s biggest arms supplier and most important unofficial ally. Ties have warmed further since Donald Trump came to power, and were further bolstered by the passage this week of the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a commitment to support Taiwan militarily.

Last month, the US sent two warships into the Taiwan Strait. That followed a string of military drills staged by Beijing around the island.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office on Tuesday reiterated its opposition to any attempt to promote Taiwan’s independence when asked to comment on Tsai’s US transit.

“Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. We firmly oppose any attempt to create ‘two Chinas’, ‘one China, one Taiwan’ and ‘Taiwan independence’ in the international arena,” it said in a statement responding to a question from AFP.

The Chinese foreign ministry said it had lodged an official protest with the United States as it recalled that it has always “firmly opposed” the US or other countries with diplomatic relations with China arranging such transits.

The ministry urged Washington to “scrupulously abide by the one China principle” and “not send any wrong signals to the ‘Taiwan independence’ forces”.

Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times accused the US and Taiwan of “shady dealings”, warning that the mainland was capable of giving the Taiwanese authorities “a drastic punishment”.

Tsai’s trip to Paraguay comes as Taiwan seeks to firm up ties with its dwindling band of diplomatic allies, whose number fell to 18 after Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic switched recognition to Beijing in May.

Under pressure from Beijing, a growing number of international airlines and companies have also edited their websites to refer to the territory as “Taiwan, China” or “Chinese Taipei”.

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