Wednesday 13 December 2017

China accuses Taiwan leader of 'ulterior political intentions' over US stopover

China, which claims Taiwan as a breakaway province, objects to any nation having formal contact with its government
China, which claims Taiwan as a breakaway province, objects to any nation having formal contact with its government

China has accused Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen of seeking to use a planned transit stop in the US to score diplomatic points.

The comments come amid Chinese rancour over an unprecedented phone call between Ms Tsai and US President-elect Donald Trump.

Asked at a briefing whether China has asked the US to cancel the stop planned for next month, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang reiterated China's claim to sovereignty over Taiwan and accused Ms Tsai of political machinations.

"Taiwan's administration and leader always perform some petty moves like a transit diplomacy whose ulterior political intentions are clear for all to see," Mr Lu said.

Ms Tsai plans to stop in the US on her way to visit Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador, among the island's handful of diplomatic allies.

China, which claims Taiwan as a breakaway province, objects to any nation having formal contact with its government.

The island has diplomatic relations with just 22 countries, 12 of which are in Central America and the Caribbean.

The phone conversation last Friday between Ms Tsai and Mr Trump broke a more than four-decade-old precedent barring such direct communication, and set off a firestorm of controversy in Washington over Mr Trump's apparent indifference to diplomatic protocol.

Since the US switched relations from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, the sides have had only unofficial diplomatic dealings, although the US remains a key ally of Taiwan and by law must ensure the island can maintain a credible defence.

China, which split with Taiwan during a civil war in 1949, continues to threaten to use force to reunify with it if deemed necessary.

Beijing cut off contacts with Ms Tsai's government earlier this year over her refusal to endorse the concept that China and Taiwan remain part of a single Chinese nation despite their present state of division.

That brought a shuddering halt to the trend in recent years of warming ties between the former arch-rivals.

In Taipei, presidential spokesman Alex Huang said that Taiwan considered it of equal importance to maintain good relations with both the US and China, but also took a swipe at China's response.

"Such overreaction is unnecessary and is also not conducive to the normal development of (Taiwan-China) relations," Mr Huang was quoted as saying by Taiwan's official Central News Agency.

AP

Press Association

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