Beijing protests over potential US warship visits to Taiwan

Trump signs defence budget urging consideration of US Navy port calls on the island

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 December, 2017, 10:40pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 December, 2017, 10:40pm

Beijing said on Thursday that it lodged an official protest with Washington after US President Donald Trump signed a defence budget that opens the possibility for US warships to visit self-ruled Taiwan.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the legislation, while non-binding, violated the one-China policy and “constitutes an interference in China’s domestic affairs”.

“We firmly oppose any form of official exchanges or military links between Taiwan and the US, as well as US arms sales to Taiwan,” Lu said.

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“We hope that the US can fully grasp the damaging nature” of the legislation’s Taiwan clause, he said.

Trump signed the budget on Tuesday, including a clause saying the United States should “consider the advisability and feasibility of re-establishing port of call exchanges between the United States Navy and the Taiwan navy”.

Chinese media reported last week that a diplomat from the Chinese embassy in the United States had warned that Beijing would take Taiwan back by force the day that a US warship entered a Taiwanese port.

The island has been a thorny issue in China-US relations, with Trump starting his transition into office by taking a precedent-breaking phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

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Trump eased tensions with Beijing by vowing to uphold the one-China policy shortly before Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Florida in April, but infuriated Beijing again this summer by approving a US$1.3 billion arms sale to Taiwan.

China and Taiwan split after a civil war in 1949, and while Taiwan sees itself as a sovereign nation, it has never formally declared independence.

Beijing says Taiwan is a part of Chinese territory and will be brought back into the fold at some point.