China has pledged to take “forceful measures to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity” after condemning a visit by Taiwan’s Vice President William Lai Ching-te to the United States.
“At the very heart of China’s core interests, the Taiwan question is the bedrock of the political foundation of China-US relations and the first red line that must not be crossed in China-US relations,” Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Friday.
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He said Washington’s decision to arrange the so-called “stopover” for Lai, sent “seriously wrong signals to separatist forces for ‘Taiwan independence’,” broadcaster CGTN reported.
Wang said the US “stubbornly pursues the strategy of using Taiwan island to control China, and continues to hollow out the one-China principle,” according to the Beijing-based daily Global Times.
Wang’s comments came after Lai returned from a sensitive visit to the US. Officially, the trip was only transits: First in New York and then in San Francisco, on his way to and from Paraguay to attend the inauguration of President Santiago Peña.
Lai is the front-runner to be Taiwan’s next president in elections set for January. President Tsai Ing-wen cannot run again after two terms.
China especially dislikes Lai because of comments he has previously made about being a “practical worker for Taiwan Independence”, though he has pledged on the campaign trail to maintain the status quo and offered talks with Beijing.
While in the US, Lai gave speeches to the Taiwanese community and met officials from the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), a US government-run non-profit that handles unofficial relations.
Taiwanese officials have said China is likely to conduct military exercises this week near the island, using Lai’s US stopovers as a pretext to intimidate voters ahead of next year’s presidential election and make them “fear war”.
Democratically governed Taiwan has so far not reported any unusual Chinese military movements near the island.