Open lines of communication will reduce the risks of miscalculation in the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu has stressed.
His comments came as US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping prepared to have their first in-person meeting since taking office at next week’s G20 summit in Bali.
“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,” Wu told Voice of America in an 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 [about] some of the concerns on the Taiwanese side, that will be very helpful to Taiwan as well,” he said.
On Tuesday, US 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.
Taiwan, meanwhile, is calling on China for talks without preconditions amid escalating tensions ahead of a regional economic summit that Xi 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 next week 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 dialogue to resolve the differences between the two sides. But the Chinese [government] has been setting [a] very high bar for any kind of official contact. They asked Taiwan to accept ‘One Country, Two Systems’ model and that is something that the Taiwan side cannot accept at all,” Wu pointed out.
But he is not ruling out the possibility of a bilateral meeting between Chang and US Vice-President Kamala Harris, who will represent Washington at APEC, citing precedents.
China opposes high-level meetings between the US and Taiwan. Beijing considers Taiwan part of China, a claim rejected by the self-ruled democracy. Washington does not take a position on Taiwan’s sovereignty and does not support independence.
In 2018, Chang had a meeting on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Papua New Guinea with then Vice-President Mike Pence.
As for Beijing’s stance, the Chinese embassy in Washington 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,” Matt Murray, the State Department’s senior official for APEC, told VOA.
Last month, 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 American diplomat said China was speeding up its seizure of Taiwan, possibly by force.
“In 2020, they [the Chinese military] sent 380 sorties to violate our air defense identification zones. And last year, their sorties went up to 970. And for this year, in August and September alone, there are already more than 2,000 sorties,” Wu said.
China’s intense military escalation against Taiwan follows successive visits to the self-ruled democracy by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, as well as a delegation of two Democratic and six Republican members of the House of Representatives.
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 the CCP’s “historic mission and an unshakable commitment” to realize unification and bring Taiwan under Beijing’s control.
“If you have public opinion surveys on this question here in Taiwan, you will find the absolute majority of the Taiwanese people reject that,” Wu said.
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 in Taiwan support maintaining the status quo.
A senior State Department official said North Korea’s escalating missile and nuclear threats are “dangerous to the region,” which will be a primary topic of conversations when the secretary of state and the president head to Southeast Asia for regional summits.
COP 27 summit
“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, US 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 in Egypt.
When asked if it was an indication that the US and China are gradually turning the page after Beijing suspended climate and military talks following Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, the senior official said: “You would have to ask Beijing … we’ve made it clear that China’s decision to suspend cooperation in these key areas [is a] collective punishment for the world.”
Nike Ching is the VOA State Department Bureau Chief.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of China Factor.