Taiwan is the most sensitive issue in ties between China and the United States. US President Joe Biden and his officials are seemingly determined to provoke Beijing with their rhetoric and actions towards Taipei. The White House has had to clarify remarks by contending that there has been no change in Washington’s policy. But there is no mistaking the dangerous turn events have taken with the admission by Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen that American troops are stationed on the self-governed island. Washington’s relations with Beijing are bound by a policy that there is only one China. The US does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but through a long-standing approach of “strategic ambiguity” under which it is legally obliged to support the island’s self-defence, mainly through arms sales. Tsai’s confirmation that ties now involve hosting US troops takes the matter to a new level. That is even more so given Biden has twice said in the past three months the US will defend Taiwan if mainland forces attack. Tsai echoed Biden’s remarks in an interview on Wednesday, elaborating that Taiwan had a “wide range of cooperation with the US aimed at increasing our defence capability”. She said Washington was training Taiwanese forces, but would not be drawn on the number of military personnel deployed to the island. The disclosure follows a push by the Biden administration to allow Taiwan greater representation at the United Nations and on organisations such as those for world health and international civil aviation . It escalated its campaign in the run-up to October 25, the 50th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China taking the Republic of China’s seat at the United Nations. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the highest-profile pitch, urging “all UN member states to join us in supporting Taiwan’s robust, meaningful participation throughout the UN system and in the international community”. US senators push to upgrade Taiwan’s status in regional development bank Beijing’s anger was predictable, even though the statement was largely in line with a long-standing American approach voiced by predecessors, diplomatic hawks and doves alike. What is different this time, though, is that tensions between China and the US are at their highest for decades, trade, technology and competition for resources being at the heart of the rivalry. Washington’s efforts to test Chinese sovereignty have meant an increased American military presence in the waters around Taiwan and in the South China Sea. Taiwan is an intrinsic part of China. The Biden administration’s moves are further undermining relations with Beijing and giving false hopes to separatist-minded people on the island. Such a dangerous course risks confrontation.