Beijing delivers double warning to US on Taiwan Strait tensions
- In separate talks, senior Chinese diplomatic and military officials issue reminders not to undermine Beijing’s sovereignty
- Foreign Minister Wang Yi rejects comparison with Ukraine while General Li Zuocheng says any infringement will be met with counter-attack
Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the war in Ukraine should not be used to challenge Beijing’s sovereignty over Taiwan, while General Li Zuocheng, chief of the Central Military Commission’s joint staff department, said any infringement of China’s core interests should expect a counter-attack.
“China will not compromise on issues concerning its core interest. If someone wants to provoke China, then they would be met with a firm counter-attack from the Chinese people,” Li said in a video call with his US counterpart Mark Milley on Thursday.
According to a statement from China’s defence ministry, Li called for an end to US military ties with the island and the resulting turbulence in China-US relations and instability in the Taiwan Strait.
A US statement by Colonel Dave Butler, spokesman for the joint chiefs of staff, did not mention Taiwan and described the call as part of the regular communications between Milley and defence chiefs around the world.
“General Milley underscored the importance of the People’s Liberation Army engaging in substantive dialogue on improving crisis communications and reducing strategic risk,” Butler said.
Also on Thursday, Wang rejected any comparison between Ukraine and Taiwan during a meeting with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers meeting in Bali.
Wang was referring to questions which have been repeatedly raised by observers as to whether the Russian invasion of its neighbour in February would encourage a PLA attack on Taiwan, and how the US may respond.
Wang said the comparison was a tactic by “some countries” to undermine China’s sovereignty.
Beijing regards Taiwan as a breakaway province, to be returned to mainland control by force if necessary, and has for years opposed formal relations between the island and other nations.
Washington does not have formal relations with Taipei but remains its most important ally and has stepped up support for the island, angering Beijing which has also increased cross-strait military drills and surveillance.
“Some countries emphasise the principle of sovereignty on the Ukraine issue, but they continue to challenge China’s sovereignty and the one-China principle on the Taiwan issue, and even deliberately create tensions in the Taiwan Strait,” Wang said.
“China rejects any attempt to compare the Ukrainian crisis with the Taiwan issue, and will firmly defend its core interests.”
Wang also reiterated China’s opposition to the unilateral sanctions imposed by Western nations over Ukraine, saying they were a violation of international trade and would make the crisis more difficult to resolve.
“In the face of complex and severe challenges, the world values unity rather than division, and what is needed is dialogue rather than confrontation,” he said.
The PLA’s Eastern Theatre Command said on Friday it had organised multi-service joint combat patrols in the sea and airspace around Taiwan, in response to the “constant moves” by the US in support of Taiwanese independence.
Also on Friday, US Senator Rick Scott met Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei. He later told reporters he believed “the world has changed” following Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine.
He also expressed support for future Taiwanese participation in the Rim of the Pacific (Rimpac) drills, billed as the world’s largest international maritime exercise, which most recently were held late last month with 26 nations taking part around Hawaii and southern California.
“We all have to put ourselves in a position that we can make sure we defend the freedom we all believe in,” he said. “I do think it would be helpful if Taiwan participated in Rimpac and I hope that’s what happens in the future.”
Additional reporting by Reuters