China warns US over ‘red line’ after American ambassador makes first Taiwan visit for 42 years

China has warned the US against crossing its “red line” after an American ambassador visited Taiwan at the weekend, making it the first such official visit in the last 42 years.

John Hennessey-Niland, the US ambassador to the pacific island nation of Palau, was part of the delegation that came with Palauan president Surangel Whipps for a five-day trip.

In 1979, the US severed ties with Taiwan in favour of Beijing. However, in the last few years amid growing tensions with China, the US has increased its activities with democratically-ruled Taipei, a move which has irked Beijing.

On Monday, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, while replying to a query about the US ambassador’s visit, said: “I want to stress that the one China principle is a universally recognised norm for international relations and a common consensus recognised, accepted and practiced by the vast majority of countries in the world.”

He emphasised that the Taiwan question is the “most important and sensitive issue in China-US relations.”

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“One China principle is the political foundation of China-US relations. China firmly opposes any form of official interactions between the US and Taiwan. This position is consistent and clear,” Mr Zhao said.

The spokesperson urged the US “to fully recognise that the Taiwan question is highly sensitive, and that it should abide by the one China principle and the three China-US joint communiques.

“It must stop any official interaction with Taiwan, refrain from sending any wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces, stop any attempt to cross the bottom line, and properly handle Taiwan-related issues with prudence, lest it should damage China-US relations as well as peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” Mr Zhao cautioned the US.

But Taiwan’s foreign ministry welcomed the visit of the US ambassador and, on Monday, tweeted: “What a triumvirate! Minister Wu, President Whipps & Ambassador Hennessey-Niland are as one when it comes to trilateral cooperation. #Taiwan, #Palau & the #US are forces for good working together in promoting peace, security & prosperity in the #IndoPacific & around the world.”

On Monday, 10 Chinese military aircraft – eight fighter jets and two surveillance aircraft – entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone. On Friday, Beijing sent a similar sortie involving 20 aircraft. Over the past few months, Taiwan has repeatedly complained that China’s fighter aircraft have violated its air space.

China considers Taiwan its own territory and Taipei fears China could use force to bring it back under its control. However, despite Beijing’s repeated warnings against Washington warming up to Taipei, the US has steadily increased its cooperation with Taiwan in recent years.

In 2020, the US approved the sale of weapons worth £3.69bn to Taiwan and last week Washington signed an agreement with Taipei to boost cooperation between their coast guards, a move to counter China.

Additional reporting by agencies

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