Don’t use Taiwan as pawn in chess game, Taipei urges US, mainland China

Minister’s comments came ahead of expected summit between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump next month, with US policy on Taiwan a prior source of friction

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 March, 2017, 3:31pm
UPDATED : Monday, 20 March, 2017, 10:42pm

Taiwan’s government, worried about the island being used as a pawn by mainland China and the United States, said on Monday the self-ruled island must protect its own interests as concerns in Taipei rise ahead of an expected meeting between the US and the mainland’s presidents.

Beijing has never renounced the use of force to take back what it deems a wayward province and has been pressuring Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, who leads an independence-leaning ruling party, to concede Taiwan is part of China.

The United States is Taiwan’s only major political ally and sole arms supplier.

Taiwan says mainland China’s most advanced medium-range ballistic missiles aimed at the island

“We call on the United States and [mainland] China, when they improve relations, to not use Taiwan in their own interests or as a chess piece,” Catherine Chang, Taiwan’s minister in charge of the Mainland Affairs Council, told reporters.

Chang urged Beijing to communicate with Taipei “in order to maintain stability and peace in the Asia-Pacific region”.

The comments come after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told President Xi Jinping on Sunday in Beijing that Donald Trump anticipated a meeting “soon”.

At issue for Taipei is whether a Trump-Xi meeting would harm Taipei’s interests as Washington begins considering a big, new arms package for Taiwan, a move sure to anger China.

“We should seek the greatest advantage in the interaction between the United States and China to reduce the possibility of Communist China guiding and manipulating the US-China-Taiwan relationship,” said Peng Sheng-chu, chief of Taiwan’s National Security Bureau.

Peng, who was answering questions at a parliamentary session, did not elaborate on what steps Taiwan should take, but said that based on the bureau’s current intelligence, it was not likely that a new communique that might hurt Taiwan’s interests would result from a Trump-Xi meeting.

“But we do not rule out the possibility,” Peng said.

One-China tensions ease but ‘Trump could still use Taiwan chip’

Taiwan celebrated a diplomatic coup in December when Trump, as president-elect, took a congratulatory phone call from Tsai and raised questions about whether he would stick with the four-decade-old “one China” policy.

Trump changed tack last month and agreed to honour the “one-China” principle during a phone call with Xi.

Tillerson left China with warm words from Xi at the weekend, ending his first trip to Asia since taking office with an agreement to work together with Beijing on North Korea and putting aside trickier issues.

Xi praised increasing communications in recent weeks between Beijing and Washington and said he was confident of seeing the two nations’ relations moving in the right direction.

Taiwan was discussed during the meeting, but details were not provided.