China warns of risk of military conflict with US over Taiwan

The Chinese ambassador to Washington has warned that the United States and China could end up in war over Taiwan, in sharp comments illustrating the rising tensions between the powers over the island’s fate.

“If the Taiwanese authorities, encouraged by the United States, continue to go down the path of independence, it will most likely involve China and the United States, the two major countries, in a military conflict,” Qin Gang told NPR in his first conflict. . -on-one interview since arriving in the US last July.

Beijing has often reprimanded the United States for its stance on Taiwan, an autonomous country over which China claims sovereignty, but Chinese officials rarely talk directly about war. While Qin warned of possible conflict, he also said that China was striving for peaceful unification.

In a virtual meeting last November, President Xi Jinping told Joe Biden that anyone who spoke in favor of Taiwanese independence “played with fire.” The US president said the two leaders must ensure that competition between the powers did not “wander into conflict”.

Since Washington shifted diplomatic allegiance from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, the United States has maintained a “one China” policy, recognizing Beijing as the sole seat of government in China.

The Biden administration has loosened restrictions for U.S. officials who meet their Taiwanese counterparts and offered strong support to Taiwan as it comes under increasing pressure from China.

Qin said the Biden administration eroded “a China” policy and “played the Taiwan card to restrict China.”

Zack Cooper, an Asia expert at the American Enterprise Institute, said the Biden administration could see Chinese behavior as undermining hopes for a peaceful solution to the Taiwan issue.

“Both sides increasingly see the other as a danger to the status quo, which is a recipe for danger in the years to come,” Cooper said.

On Sunday, the Chinese military flew 39 fighter jets and other warplanes into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), as part of an escalating campaign to both pressure the Taipei government and train for possible future military action.

The United States maintains a policy of “strategic ambiguity”, under which it does not say whether it will defend Taiwan against any Chinese invasion. The policy is designed to both warn Taiwanese officials against declaring independence – which would almost certainly trigger a Chinese attack – and make Beijing think twice about any military action.

The FT reported last week that the Chinese navy had established a constant presence between southern Japan and eastern Taiwan for the first time, underscoring the increasing military pressure on the island.

Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund, said Qin’s comments were inconsistent with those of other Chinese officials, “signaling their dissatisfaction with the course of US-Taiwan-Taiwan relations”.

Elbridge Colby, a former Pentagon official, said it was a “pretty significant signal that Beijing’s new ambassador chose his first sit-down interview to issue a stern warning about Taiwan and specifically emphasized Beijing’s willingness to use force.” .

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