A top Chinese diplomat urged the US to stop “crossing lines and playing with fire” on Taiwan, as part of a broad series of warnings to President Joe Biden against meddling in Beijing’s affairs.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at his annual news briefing on Sunday there was “no room for compromise or concessions” in Beijing’s claim to sovereignty over the democratically ruled island. Wang’s response on Taiwan was one of several in which he hit out at the US for “willfully interfering in other countries’ internal affairs in the name of democracy and human rights.”
“It is important that the United States recognises this as soon as possible,” Wang said on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress in Beijing. “Otherwise, the world will remain far from tranquil.”
At the same time, Wang reiterated China’s willingness to work with US to address shared concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and the global economy. “I hope China and the US restarting cooperation on climate change can also bring a positive change of climate to bilateral ties,” Wang added.
While China has expressed optimism that relations would improve under Biden, it continues to put the onus on Washington to fix the damage done during Donald Trump’s four-year tenure. On Sunday, Wang cited Beijing’s battle with “hegemony, high-handedness and bullying” and “outright interference in China’s domestic affairs” in a list of the country’s diplomatic accomplishments over the past year.
The Biden administration has pledged to put greater emphasis on human rights and building an allied response to China, even as it quiets down the anti-Chinese rhetoric of the Trump era. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week called dealings with China the defining test of the century, describing Washington’s intended approach to Beijing as “competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be and adversarial when it must be.”
China appears to be trying to reestablish a status quo shattered under Trump. The previous US administration, among other things, sanctioned senior Chinese officials over human rights practices in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, approved the highest-level cabinet visit to Taiwan in four decades and imposed tariffs on about $335 billion of Chinese goods annually.
The briefing on Sunday was the latest indication that tensions between the world’s two largest economies may continue. Wang’s remarks echoed those of Yang Jiechi, the head of the ruling Communist Party’s foreign affairs body, when he urged the US not to cross China’s “red lines.” State media recently complained that Biden’s early policies were similar to those of his predecessor.
“We urge the new administration in the US to fully recognise the high sensitivity of the Taiwan question,” Wang said, urging the US to stop “the approach of crossing lines and playing with fire of the previous administration, and properly and cautiously tackle” the issue.
US, South Korea to hold computer-simulated drills
The US and South Korea will hold their regular joint military drills from Monday as scheduled, but they will be limited mainly to computer simulations because of concerns about the pandemic and fears the exercises could provoke North Korea.
The “strictly defensive” nine-day drill will be a command-post exercise, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement on Sunday. The decision was made to scale down after “comprehensive consideration” of the coronavirus situation and diplomatic efforts to achieve denuclearisation and peace on the Korean peninsula, according to the statement.
Washington and Seoul have eased up on joint drills in a bid to get North Korea back to the negotiating table. Pyongyang has labelled the exercises an “invasion rehearsal.” The high-stakes nuclear negotiations between the US and North Korea have been stalled for more than two years ago, after a summit between the two sides in Hanoi in 2019 ended abruptly.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said at a press conference in January that Seoul may discuss the exercises with Pyongyang if necessary, with a view to reviving talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The latest joint drills will involve preparation for “full operational capability” tests under a South Korean general, needed for the transfer of wartime operational control from the US to South Korea, according to the statement. Moon has vowed to complete the transfer before his single term ends next year.