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‘Taiwan independence’ an obstacle to China-US relations, says Beijing

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met to discuss competition and cooperation between the two countries.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, left, in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 16, 2024 and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi [AP]

Published On 27 Jan 202427 Jan 2024

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and United States National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan have held talks aimed at keeping in contact, both sides said, with Wang stressing that “Taiwan independence” posed the biggest risk to Sino-US ties.

Wang and Sullivan met in Bangkok, Thailand, on Saturday, just more than two months after US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco.

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The two “had candid, substantive and fruitful strategic communication on implementing the consensus reach at the San Francisco meeting … and on properly handling important and sensitive issues in China-US relations,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The White House said that the meeting between the officials was “part of the effort to maintain open lines of communication” between the two countries.

It added that “Sullivan stressed that although the United States and China are in competition, both countries need to prevent it from veering into conflict or confrontation”.

Beijing and Washington have previously clashed on issues related to technology, trade, human rights, and Taiwan, which China claims as its territory.

Taiwan

The recent Taiwanese election saw the Democratic Progressive Party (DDP) secure a third term. The DPP is resistant to China’s claim over Taiwan.

This week, two US lawmakers met Taiwan’s new leader, Lai Ching-te, to reaffirm Washington’s support for the self-governing island.

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This was the second group to arrive in Taiwan since the election after Biden sent an unofficial delegation to congratulate Lai two days after the vote.

But, according to China’s foreign ministry, Wang stressed in the meeting with Sullivan that Taiwan was “China’s internal affair, and the regional election in Taiwan cannot change the basic reality that Taiwan is part of China”.

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“The biggest risk to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait is the so-called ‘Taiwan independence’ movement. The biggest challenge to China-US relations is also the ‘Taiwan independence’ movement,” it added.

Before the meeting, Taiwan’s defence ministry said China sent 33 aircraft, including SU-30 fighters and six navy vessels, around Taiwan between 6am Friday to 6am Saturday (22:00 Thursday – 22:00 Friday GMT). Among those sent, 13 warplanes crossed the Taiwan Strait, an unofficial boundary between Taiwan and China.

The White House said Sullivan “underscored the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” without elaborating.

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High-level diplomacy

Apart from cross-strait issues, the officials also touched on other issues, including Russia’s war against Ukraine, Iran and the Middle East, North Korea, the South China Sea, and Myanmar, the White House said.

Both sides agreed that the two presidents would keep regular contact, provide strategic guidance on bilateral relations and promote exchanges between the US and China in different areas and levels, the Chinese ministry said.

The two sides will set up a call between President Xi and President Biden, the White House said in a statement, as part of “high-level diplomacy” efforts.

They also agreed to launch a joint working group on anti-drug cooperation and set up an intergovernmental dialogue on artificial intelligence.

Sullivan and Wang “recognised recent progress in resuming military-to-military communication and noted the importance of maintaining these channels”, the White House added.

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