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BEIJING (AP) — China on Friday denounced an agreement between the U.S. and Taiwanese coast guards that underscores growing ties between Washington and the self-governing island democracy.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the pact violated U.S. commitments to China and called on the U.S. to "be cautious with its words and actions on Taiwan-related issues.” Hua also attacked support in Congress for a bill calling on Taiwan to be given status at the World Health Organization. Taiwan's seat at the U.N. was handed to China in 1971.
“”We urge the U.S. side to ... refrain from sending any wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces, and refrain from encouraging and inciting Taiwan to expand its so-called international space," Hua told reporters at a daily briefing.
The U.S. switched diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China in 1979 but maintains robust economic, political and military ties with the island. Those have grown stronger in recent years as China has upped its threats to use its massive military to annex the island of 24 million, a task Chinese leader Xi Jinping has said must not be left to future generations.
The sides split amid civil war in 1949 and while China demands eventual political unification under Beijing's rule, most Taiwanese strongly favor the current state of de facto independence amid extensive economic exchanges. U.S. law requires Washington to ensure the island has the ability to defend itself and Taiwan remains among the most sensitive issues in relations with Beijing that are at their lowest level in decades.
This week’s agreement also follows China’s adoption of a new law authorizing its coast guard to use force in areas that China claims as its own territory, a move seen as potentially raising the possibility for conflict in surrounding waters. China's coast guard is considered the region's largest and already operates as an extension of its military in asserting China's maritime claims.
In a tweet Friday, Taiwan's chief representative in the U.S., Bi-khim Hsiao, said the memorandum of understanding with the U.S. was expected to bring closer cooperation in maritime safety, humanitarian rescue, fisheries enforcement and protection of the marine environment.
The U.S. State Department's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs tweeted that, “”The U.S. could not be prouder to work side-by-side with such a good friend as Taiwan to tackle the world’s challenges."