Analysts say US military’s warnings of rising threat reflect deterioration in US-China ties rather than any real change.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has told a visiting US delegation of former senior officials that the Chinese military’s activities had threatened peace and stability in the region, and pointed to what she said were recent “provocations”.
“We are very willing to work with like-minded countries, including the United States, to jointly safeguard the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific and deter adventurous manoeuvres and provocations,” Tsai said in the meeting, which was broadcast live on Facebook on Thursday.
Tsai also told the delegation that Taiwan looks forward to resuming trade talks with the US as soon as possible and will work with Washington in countering fake news and disinformation.
US President Joe Biden sent the unofficial delegation to Taiwan in a sign of support for the democratic island as it faces increasingly hostile moves by China.
Former Senator Christopher Dodd and former Deputy Secretaries of State Richard Armitage and James Steinberg touched down in Taipei on Wednesday afternoon.
During their meeting with Tsai on Thursday, Dodd was quoted by news reports as saying that the US would continue to support the island’s self-defence.
“Once again this visit demonstrates the firm relationship between Taiwan and the United States,” said Taiwan’s presidential office spokesman Xavier Chang.
“It is strong as a rock.”
Beijing, which claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own and has not ruled out the use of force to achieve its aims, condemned the trip.
“China has already lodged stern representations with the US against the sending of personnel to visit Taiwan,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters.
Taiwan’s 23 million people live under the constant threat of invasion by Beijing, which uses diplomatic, economic and military pressure to keep the island isolated on the world stage.
Beijing bristles whenever countries send delegations to or maintain contacts with Taiwan.
Over the past year, Beijing’s sabre-rattling has increased considerably with Chinese fighter jets and nuclear-capable bombers breaching Taiwan’s air defence zone (ADIZ) on a near-daily basis.
Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing in 1979.
But it maintains relations with Taipei and is bound by an act of Congress to sell the island defensive weapons. It also opposes any attempt by China to change Taiwan’s future by force.
This week’s delegation comes on the 42nd anniversary of that legislation – the Taiwan Relations Act – which Biden has supported since he was a young senator.
It also comes after the State Department said on Friday it was issuing new guidelines to allow US officials to meet more easily with Taiwanese counterparts.
Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump ramped up contacts and visits to Taiwan by US officials as relations between Washington and Beijing deteriorated over a host of issues.
Biden has made clear he wishes to cooperate with China on common causes such as climate change.
But concerns about China under President Xi Jinping have become a rare bipartisan issue in Washington and Biden has maintained a tough line with Beijing over its human rights record and threats towards Taiwan.
On Thursday, US climate envoy John Kerry held talks with Chinese officials in the city of Shanghai in the first trip there by an official in the Biden administration.
“We have big disagreements with China on some key issues, absolutely. But climate has to stand alone,” Kerry told broadcaster CNN ahead of the trip.
He was also quoted as saying that in terms of real numbers, China is the world’s largest polluter.
In Shanghai, Kerry and his Chinese counterparts are expected to discuss environmental challenges, including the upcoming UN-led climate talks to be held in Glasgow at the end of the year.