US-China relations: Washington urges Beijing to stop pressuring Taiwan after reports of airspace incursion

27-Jan-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 7:22 AM Print This Post

Washington urged Beijing to end its military pressure against Taiwan on Saturday, hours after the island reported a large incursion into its airspace by the mainland Chinese air force.

“The United States notes with concern the pattern of [Beijing's] ongoing attempts to intimidate its neighbours, including Taiwan,” the US State Department said.

The statement stopped short of referring directly to the reported incursion by Chinese warplanes hours earlier.

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“We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives,” said the statement, one of the first on Taiwan since Joe Biden took over as US president.

Taiwan’s defence ministry reported earlier on Saturday that eight People’s Liberation Army bombers and four fighter jets entered the southwestern corner of the island’s air defence identification zone and that its air force deployed missiles to “monitor” the incursion.

The US statement said Washington would continue to support a peaceful resolution of issues between Beijing and Taipei, consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan.

The United States’ commitment to Taiwan was “rock solid” and contributed to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region, it said.

There was no immediate response from the Chinese government.

In recent weeks, Beijing has framed the efforts of the outgoing Trump administration to deepen engagement with Taiwan as the “final madness” of departing officials. But the Biden administration has shown few signs of a major departure from Trump’s Taiwan policy.

Last week, Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the US, Hsiao Bi-khim, became the first Taiwanese envoy in decades to attend a US presidential inauguration. Trump did not extend such an invitation to his inauguration in January 2017, but the year before as president-elect he spoke to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen over the phone.

US secretary of state nominee Antony Blinken told his confirmation hearing last week that Biden would ensure Taiwan had the ability to defend itself.

Wang Huiyao, president of the Centre for China and Globalisation, a Beijing-based think tank, said the US statement was a measured response to the report of the incursion into Taiwan’s airspace.

“The US might feel obliged to respond after Taiwan’s effort to make the patrol public, but it is still too early to decide where Biden stands on the issue based on a few lines by the ministry,” he said.

Beijing increased its military pressure on Taiwan in 2020. The island’s defence chief counted 1,710 air sorties and 1,029 maritime incursions into the island’s air defence identification zone in the first nine months of the year.

Also on Saturday, a US aircraft carrier group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt entered the South China Sea.

The strike group would conduct routine operations “to ensure freedom of the seas, build partnerships that foster maritime security”, the US Indo-Pacific Command said on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Japan’s Defence minister Nobuo Kishi and newly confirmed US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin agreed on Sunday to enhance their countries’ alliance amid China’s growing maritime assertiveness.

“We agreed to oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the South and East China seas,” Kishi told reporters after a phone call with his American counterpart.

The ministers reaffirmed that article 5 of the Japan-US security treaty that requires the US to protect Japan against an armed attack covered the disputed Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, which are administered by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing, he said.

China has been aggressively pressing its territorial claims in the two seas, raising tensions with Japan and other Asian countries.


Category: China

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