US Taiwan bill runs risk of war, Chinese state media warn

Legislation to encourage closer US ties with Taiwan – which Beijing claims as its own – will only encourage independence, says state-run newspaper

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 March, 2018, 11:45am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 March, 2018, 11:10pm

Mainland Chinese state media warned on Friday that the country could go to war over Taiwan if the United States passes into law a bill promoting closer US ties with the self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own.

The legislation, which only needs US President Donald Trump’s signature to become law, says it should be US policy to allow officials at all levels to travel to Taiwan to meet their Taiwanese counterparts, permit high-level Taiwanese officials to enter the United States “under respectful conditions” and meet US officials.

Beijing considers democratic Taiwan to be a wayward province and integral part of “one China”, ineligible for state-to-state relations, and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.

Beijing hits out at US’ Taiwan travel bill as analysts warn of backlash

In a strongly worded editorial, state-run China Daily said if the bill became law it would only encourage Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen to further assert the island’s sovereignty.

“Which, if she persisted, would lead to the inevitable consequence of triggering the Anti-Secession Law that allows Beijing to use force to prevent the island from seceding,” the paper said, referring to a law Beijing passed in 2005.

“Since the US is bound by domestic law to act on behalf of the island in that instance, it would only give substance to the observation that the descent into hell is easy.”

Mainland China’s hostility towards Taiwan has risen since the election to president of Tsai from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party in 2016.

Beijing suspects Tsai wants to push for formal independence, crossing a red line for Communist Party leaders in Beijing, although Taiwan’s leader has said she wants to maintain the status quo and is committed to ensuring peace.

Taiwan has welcomed the US legislation.

Speaking in Taipei on Friday, Premier William Lai said the United States was a solid ally of Taiwan’s and expressed his deep thanks for the legislation.

“We wholeheartedly anticipate that this law can in the future further raise the substantive relationship between Taiwan and the United States,” Lai said.

Taipei faces a tougher Beijing if Xi Jinping stays in power, analysts warn

In a second editorial, the widely read state-run Global Times tabloid said mainland China could “make targeted measures against pro-independence forces in Taiwan”.

“Militarily, the strength of the People’s Liberation Army has fundamentally changed the military and political situation across the [strait],” it said, talking about the narrow waterway that separates Taiwan from its giant neighbour.

“Thanks to its rapid growth, the Chinese mainland is now granted unparalleled strategic initiative across the Taiwan Strait.”

Beijing has dramatically upped its military presence around Taiwan. China’s air force had carried out 16 rounds of exercises close to Taiwan in the last year or so, Taiwan’s defence ministry said in late December, warning that China’s military threat was growing by the day.

The United States has no formal ties with Taiwan, but is bound by law to help it defend itself and is the island’s main source of arms. Beijing regularly says Taiwan is the most sensitive issue in its ties with Washington.