Hindustan Times (Jammu)

Don’t play with fire on Taiwan, China tells US

- Sutirtho Patranobis spatranobi­s@htlive.com

China on Tuesday warned the US “not to play with fire” on the issue of Taiwan just days after Washington issued new guidelines that will continue to enable US officials to freely meet Taiwanese counterpar­ts, angering Beijing.

The warning from China came on a day when self-ruled Taiwan, viewed by China as a renegade region, said a record number of fighter jets from the mainland flew into its air defence zone on Monday.

The Taiwanese defence ministry was quoted as saying that at least 25 Chinese military aircraft including nuclear- capable bombers flew inside its air-defence identifica­tion zone (ADIZ). The island’s defence ministry said it scrambled its own jets to warn and monitor the mainland aircraft.

China considers Taiwan as a “core” territoria­l issue and has been aggressive­ly using the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to show off military strength around the island of about 23 million people.

Beijing has over the years warned countries including India against establishi­ng official ties with Taipei - and instead support the “one China policy” - and has never ruled out reuniting Taiwan using military power.

The Chinese foreign ministry on Tuesday continued its aggressive posturing against the US on Taiwan, one of the primary friction points between the two countries.

Spokespers­on Zhao Lijian told reporters that China has lodged “stern representa­tions” with the US over the guidelines.

China, Zhao said, urges the US “not to play with fire on the Taiwan issue, immediatel­y stop any form of US-Taiwan official contacts, cautiously and appropriat­ely handle the matter, and not send wrong signals to Taiwan independen­ce forces so as not to subversive­ly influence and damage Sino-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait”.

Blinken’s concerns

China’s latest warning comes after US secretary of state Antony Blinken said Washington is concerned by Beijing’s “increasing­ly aggressive actions” directed at Taiwan and remains committed to ensuring peace and stability in the western Pacific region.

“What we’ve seen, and what is of real concern to us, is increasing­ly aggressive actions by the government in Beijing directed at Taiwan,” Blinken said during an interview to NBC.

The Joe Biden administra­tion is committed to ensuring that Taiwan has the ability to defend itself, Blinken added. “It would be a serious mistake for anyone to try to change the existing status quo by force,” he said.

Only 15 countries officially recognise Taiwan, and do not have diplomatic ties with Beijing.

President Tsai Ing-wen has maintained that Taiwan is an independen­t country called the Republic of China - which is its formal name - and that she will defend its freedom and security.

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