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China’s top diplomat at meeting with US official urges Washington not to support Taiwan independence

Foreign Minister Wang Yi tells U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan the island’s recent election did not change the fact that it is is part of China

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 16, 2024.
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 16, 2024.DENIS BALIBOUSE (REUTERS)

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan that Washington should stand by a commitment not to support independence for Taiwan, during their high-level talks in the Thai capital, the Chinese foreign ministry said Saturday.

Wang said Taiwan’s recent election did not change the fact that the island is part of China and the biggest challenge in U.S.-China relations is the issue of “Taiwan independence,” according to a statement from the ministry.

U.S. President Joe Biden has said he does not support Taiwanese independence, but U.S. law requires a credible defense for Taiwan and for the U.S. to treat all threats to the island as matters of “grave concern.”

Wang also said both sides should use the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries this year as an opportunity to reflect on past experiences and treat each other as equals, rather than adopting a condescending attitude.

Both sides should “be committed to mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and win-win cooperation, building a correct way for China and the U.S. to interact,” the statement quoted Wang as saying.

Wang and Sullivan met in Bangkok on Friday and Saturday, with statements from both governments hailing their discussions as “candid, substantive and constructive.” The two previously met on the Mediterranean island nation of Malta and in Vienna last year before a high-profile meeting between their country’s presidents, Joe Biden and Xi Jinping, in November.

During the November talks, both sides showcased modest agreements to combat illegal fentanyl and re-establish military communications, keeping the relationship from getting any worse. But the meeting failed to resolve any of their major differences, many of which have international implications.

In a White House statement Saturday on the meeting, Sullivan stressed the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

China claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own territory and in recent years has shown its displeasure at political activities in Taiwan by sending military planes and ships. Earlier on Saturday, Taiwan’s defense ministry said China had sent more than 30 warplanes and a group of navy ships toward the island during a 24-hour period, including 13 warplanes that crossed the midline of the Taiwan Strait — an unofficial boundary that’s considered a buffer between its territory and the mainland.

Taiwan has said six Chinese balloons either flew over the island or through airspace just north of it, days after the self-governing island elected Lai Ching-te as the new president. Lai’s Democratic Progressive Party largely campaigned on self-determination, social justice and a rejection of China’s threats.

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

Sullivan highlighted that although Washington and Beijing are in competition, both sides have to “prevent it from veering into conflict or confrontation,” it added.

Both sides agreed that the two presidents would keep regular contact, provide strategic guidance on bilateral relations and promote exchanges between the U.S. and China in different areas and levels, the Chinese ministry said. Both sides will start a joint working group on anti-drug cooperation in the near future and hold the first meeting of the China-U.S. dialogue mechanism on artificial intelligence this spring, it added.

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