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US warns China: Taiwan threats could trigger major accidental conflict

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned China to stop flying warplanes toward Taiwan, citing the risk of an accidental conflict that could bring global powers to the brink of a major clash.

“We are very concerned by the PRC’s provocative military activity near Taiwan,” Blinken told reporters in Paris. “As we’ve said, the activity is destabilizing, it risks miscalculation, and it has the potential to undermine regional peace and stability.”

That public statement coincided with a private meeting between White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Chinese Communist Party Politburo member Yang Jiechi, the fractious director of Beijing’s foreign affairs commission. A pair of influential U.S. senators likewise signaled their support for Taiwan, as an unprecedented show of Chinese air power has stoked misgivings about whether Beijing would invade Taiwan and dare the United States to intervene.

"Mr. Sullivan raised a number of areas where we have concern with the PRC’s actions, including actions related to human rights, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, the South China Sea, and Taiwan,” the White House underscored following a meeting in Zurich.

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Sullivan's and Yang’s meeting was described as a follow-up to President Joe Biden’s phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping last month, but it occurred in the context of an unprecedented number of Chinese fighter jets flying into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone this week, exacerbating international misgivings about the potential for a major conflict over Taiwan, even as American leaders hint that they would mobilize U.S. forces to fight alongside the Taiwanese.

“If you’re out, the Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii, you’re watching it day to day, we have a significant amount of capability forward in the region to tamp down any such potential,” Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks told the Center for Strategic and International Studies last Friday.

Chinese forces sent 38 warplanes toward Taiwan in two sorties, a truculent celebration of the Oct. 1 anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Those incursions have continued in recent days, as Taiwanese officials prepare for their National Day on Oct. 10.

“We have good relations, of course, with Taiwan,” Hicks said. “We have commitments to Taiwan that are enduring since the 1970s. And central to that is helping the Taiwanese with their self-defense capabilities.”

The mainland Chinese regime claims sovereignty over Taiwan, but the Chinese Communist Party has never ruled the island. The U.S. long has provided defense equipment to Taiwanese forces, but U.S. officials never have stated explicitly whether American forces would intervene if China were to invade Taiwan.

“We have an interest in ensuring democracies can flourish,” Hicks said. “Primarily, that’s expressed through the self-defense of Taiwan, but the United States works closely with partners throughout the world on that.”

A bipartisan pair of lawmakers echoed that theme in a letter to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday.

“We are mindful that Taiwan stands at the forefront of confronting challenges posed by the Chinese government,” Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, and Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“For decades, Congress has been one of Taiwan’s strongest allies in upholding America’s commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances,” they added, referring to federal law and the Ronald Reagan-era commitments that underpin the U.S. unofficial friendship with Taiwan. “You can count on our continued support in ensuring Taiwan remains one of our most important partners in the Indo-Pacific region.”

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Blinken likewise touted the “rock solid” American relationship to Taiwan. "So, we strongly urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure and coercion directed at Taiwan,” he said. “The United States has a commitment to Taiwan that is rock solid and, over many years, has contributed to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region. And we will continue to stand with friends, with allies to advance shared prosperity, shared security, shared values, as well as continue to deepen our ties with a democratic Taiwan.”

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Tags: News, Foreign Policy, National Security, Antony Blinken, Jake Sullivan, China

Original Author: Joel Gehrke

Original Location: US warns China: Taiwan threats could trigger major accidental conflict

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