Taiwan’s Foreign Minister: Biden-Xi Meeting Conducive to Taiwan Strait Stability

Taiwan’s Foreign Minister: Biden-Xi Meeting Conducive to Taiwan Strait Stability
Photo Credit: AP / TPG Images

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“There’s been no official contact between Taiwan and China for quite some time. If the United States is able to talk to the Chinese side some of the concerns on the Taiwanese side, that will be very helpful to Taiwan as well.”

By Nike Ching

STATE DEPARTMENT — Taiwan said open lines of communication would reduce the risks of miscalculation in the Taiwan Strait as U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are prepared to have their first in-person meeting since taking office, on the margins of next week’s G-20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.

“If the senior leaders or the president, the vice president of the United States are able to speak with the Chinese leaders to address the concerns about the peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait or China’s violation of the status quo, I think it’s going to be very helpful to regional peace,” Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told VOA State Department Bureau Chief Nike Ching in a recent exclusive interview.

“There’s been no official contact between Taiwan and China for quite some time. If the United States is able to talk to the Chinese side some of the concerns on the Taiwanese side, that will be very helpful to Taiwan as well,” he added.

Tuesday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met with Chinese Ambassador Qin Gang ahead of the planned Biden-Xi meeting.

“We believe in the utility of contacts, including senior-level contacts,” a senior State Department official said, adding Sherman and Qin “compared notes across the board” on a range of issues. The senior official stopped short of elaborating when asked if China’s increasing military deployment in the Taiwan Strait was discussed.

Meanwhile, Taiwan is calling on China for talks without preconditions amid escalating tensions, ahead of a regional economic summit where Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s envoy will both attend.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company founder Morris Chang will represent Taiwan at Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Summit November 18-19 in Bangkok.

Wu said there is no set plan for Chang to meet with Xi one-on-one on the sidelines of APEC.

“We have been calling on China for dialogues to resolve the differences between the two sides,” said Wu. “But the Chinese [government] has been setting very high bars for any kind of official contacts between the two sides. They asked Taiwan to accept ‘one country, two systems’ model and that is something that the Taiwan side cannot accept at all.”

But Wu is not ruling out the possibility of a bilateral meeting between Chang and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who will represent Washington at the APEC summit, citing precedents.

China opposes high-level meetings between the United States and Taiwan. China claims sovereignty over Taiwan, a claim rejected by the self-ruled democracy. The United States does not take a position on Taiwan’s sovereignty and does not support Taiwan independence.

In 2018, Chang had a pull-aside meeting with then U.S. Vice President Mike Pence during the APEC summit in Papua New Guinea.

APEC Mike pence 張忠謀
Photo credit: Twitter of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ROC (Taiwan) 
vTaiwan's special APEC envoy Morris Chang, left, meets with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on the Pacific Explorer cruise ship on the sidelines of the APEC Summit, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

The Chinese embassy in Washington has declined VOA’s request for a video interview. A spokesperson said the embassy does not have anything to offer at the moment on summit meetings.

“We don’t agree on everything certainly, but we do want to have as constructive a relationship as possible” between the “world’s two largest economies” and “continue to have that sort of touch point,” the State Department’s senior official for APEC, Matt Murray, told VOA on Tuesday.

Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused China of undermining a decades-old “status quo” that has kept Washington and Beijing from going to war over Taiwan. The top U.S. diplomat said China was speeding up its seizure of Taiwan, possibly by force.

“In 2020, they [the Chinese military] have sent 380 sorties to violate our air defense identification zones. And last year, their sorties went up to 970, violating our air defense identification zones. And for this year, in August and September alone, there are already more than 2000 sorties,” said Wu.

China’s intense military escalation against Taiwan follows successive visits to the self-ruled democracy by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, a Republican; as well as a delegation of two Democratic and six Republican members of the House of Representatives who visited Taiwan in early September.

The highly watched Biden-Xi meeting would come after the Chinese leader expanded powers to continue his third term as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and head of the Central Military Commission.

Xi reiterated the “one country, two systems” proposal for Taiwan during his speech to the 20th Communist Party Congress. He added it was CCP’s “historic mission and an unshakable commitment” to realize a complete unification and bring Taiwan under Beijing’s control.

“If you have public opinion surveys on this question here in Taiwan, you will find absolute majority of the Taiwanese people reject that,” said Wu.

An October survey showed 90% of Taiwanese reject China’s military threat. An overwhelming majority of people were against China’s one country, two systems proposal.

Other public polls conducted from 1994 to 2022 indicate a majority of Taiwanese said they support maintaining the status quo.

A senior State Department official said North Korea’s escalating missile and nuclear threats are “profoundly destabilizing and dangerous to the region,” which will be a primary topic of conversations when the secretary and the president go to Southeast Asia for regional summits.

“We’re not in the business of providing sweeteners or inducements to get them [North Korea] to talk. We think it’s in our interests as well as their interests to sit down to engage in dialogue and diplomacy,” the senior official told VOA.

This week, U.S. special envoy for climate John Kerry met with his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, and had informal climate-related conversations during the COP 27 summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

When asked if it was an indication that the U.S. and China are gradually turning the page after Beijing unilaterally suspended climate and military talks following Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, the senior official said, “You would have to ask Beijing because we’ve made very clear that China’s decision to suspend cooperation in these key areas, including climate, was essentially a form of collective punishment for the world.”

The News Lens has been authorized to publish this article from Voice of America.

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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou (@thenewslensintl)

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