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US will continue to strengthen ‘unofficial ties’ with Taiwan, vice-president Kamala Harris says

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 28/09/2022 Kawala Xie
  • Harris accuses Beijing of trying to coerce its neighbours and undermine the status quo in the Taiwan Strait
  • Vice-president tells US sailors based in Japan that Washington will continue to support Taiwan's self-defence in the face of Beijing's 'aggressive behaviour'

US vice-president Kamala Harris has said the US will strengthen "unofficial ties" with Taiwan and support its self-defence as she accused Beijing of trying to undermine the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.

Speaking to American sailors on the USS Howard, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer based in Yokosuka, Japan on Wednesday, Harris said Beijing had undermined the international rules-based order and "flexed its military and economic might to coerce and intimidate its neighbours".

She said: "We anticipate continued aggressive behaviour from Beijing, as it attempts to unilaterally undermine the status quo.

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"We will continue to oppose any unilateral change to the status quo. And we will continue to support Taiwan's self-defence, consistent with our long-standing policy.

"Taiwan is a vibrant democracy that contributes to the global good - from technology to health, and beyond, and the United States will continue to deepen our unofficial ties."

She added stability and peace in the Taiwan Strait is an "essential feature" of a "free and open Indo-Pacific", and said the US will continue to operate in the region "undaunted and unafraid".

President Joe Biden said last week that the country would defend Taiwan if it were attacked by China, as tensions escalate following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to the island.

US vice-president set to visit Seoul with China, North Korea on her mind

Beijing sees the self-ruled island as part of its territory and has never ruled out the possibility of using force to seek unification. Foreign Minister Wang Yi reaffirmed China's determination at the United Nations General Assembly last week, saying only unification will bring peace to the Taiwan Strait and warning the US of conflict if it continues to interfere.

Most countries, including the US, do not recognise Taiwan as an independent state. Washington, however, opposes any attempt to take the island by force.

The US State Department approved a US$1.1 billion arms sale to Taiwan at the beginning of this month, prompting protests from China which also sent five warships and four aircraft - including two J-10 fighter jets - to the strait.

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Harris was in Japan for the funeral of former prime minister Shinzo Abe this week and also met Abe's successor Fumio Kishida, where she attacked Beijing's "irresponsible provocations" in the Taiwan Strait.

She also met Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on the sidelines of Abe's funeral, where Australia pledged to engage more with the US to speed up the process of acquiring of nuclear-powered submarines under the Aukus pact.

Harris is travelling on to South Korea, where she is expected to become the first senior figure in Biden's administration to visit the demilitarised zone.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who is due to meet Harris in Seoul, has distanced the country from military intervention in the Taiwan Strait, saying North Korea remained the country's priority.

In response to Harris's comments, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin called on the US to "clearly reiterate the one-China policy," adding China's response to Pelosi's visit had been "reasonable and legitimate".

China criticises Buttigieg backing of Taiwan at UN civil aviation body

Before her visit to the US naval base in Yokosuka, Harris held talks with Japanese firms including Tokyo Electron, Nikon, and Fujitsu and he called on US and Japanese firms to "diversify" their supply chains, saying "no one country can satisfy the globe's demands", according to a White House readout, in a seeming reference to China.

China has been recently targeted by a series of US restrictions on its semiconductor industry. The new US Chips and Science Act restricts American companies from building advanced chip factories in China. Leading firms such as Nvidia have already been banned from selling chips to China.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

Copyright (c) 2022. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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