Chinese officials threatened on Thursday to “take strong countermeasures” over the scheduled visit of the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, to Taiwan on Sunday.
Azar’s visit to Taiwan will be the highest-level visit by a US official in the four decades since Washington cut ties with Taipei to placate Beijing.
A spokesperson from the Taiwan Affairs Office in China, Ma Xiaoguang, criticized Taiwan’s Democrative Progressive Party, which is led by President Tsai Ing-wen.
“Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party is willing to become a chess piece and collude with the U.S. in a bit to seek political gains,” said Ma. “This is a very dangerous move and will not succeed.”
China views Taiwan as part of its territory and has always expressed an intention to reclaim the island, despite its separate leadership, currency and language. Taiwan has repeatedly resisted China’s claim and has asserted itself as a de facto independent state.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin spoke at a press briefing on Thursday, urging the US to “adhere to the one-China principle and the three joint communiques,” referring to a set of three agreements made between the US and China which affirms the authority of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) over Taiwan, formerly known as the Republic of China.
“Any attempt to ignore, deny or challenge the one-China principle is doomed to fail. China will take firm countermeasures in response [to] the US wrong move,” Wang added.
Azar is set to lead a US delegation to Taiwan to discuss its response to the coronavirus pandemic, which Taiwan has been largely successful at containing, as well as talk about supplies of medical equipment and technology.
“Taiwan has been a model of transparency and cooperation in global health during the COVID-19 pandemic and long before it,” said Azar, according to a statement released by the Health Department on Tuesday.
“I look forward to … underscoring our shared belief that free and democratic societies are the best model for protecting and promoting health,” he continued.
“This trip represents an opportunity to strengthen our economic and public health cooperation with Taiwan, especially as the United States and other countries work to strengthen and diversify our sources for crucial medical products.”
Taiwan’s response to the pandemic has been regarded as one of the most successful in the world. The island nation has only reported 476 infections and seven deaths since the start of the pandemic.
However, despite their effective management of the virus, Taiwan was barred by China from participating in the World Health Assembly.
The relationship between the US and China has been on a downwards trajectory over the past few months, with the two powers clashing over a multitude of issues including trade, human rights and security.
The upcoming US visit would only exacerbate tensions as they ignore China’s warnings over the Taiwan independence issue, which Wang stated was one of “utmost importance with the highest level of sensitivity.”
Based on China’s imposition of its national security law in Hong Kong and its potentially invasive maritime activities around the South China Sea, some fear that Taiwan could be China’s next target as Beijing becomes more assertive over its territorial claims.The US has shown their support for Taiwan by allegedly agreeing to supply it with US$620 million worth of missile parts. There have also been reports that the two are negotiating on the sale of several sophisticated aerial drones, although it is unclear whether these will be armed or not.
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