HUALIEN, Taiwan (AP) — The U.S. government will hold trade talks with Taiwan in a show of support for the island democracy that China claims as its own territory, prompting Beijing to warn Thursday that it will take action if necessary to “safeguard its sovereignty”. ”

Taiwanese soldiers use a twin-barreled Oerlikon 35mm anti-aircraft gun at a base in Hualien County, southeast Taiwan, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022. Taiwan is holding military drills to show its ability to withstand the Chinese pressure to accept Beijing’s political control over the island. (AP Photo/Johnson Lai)

The trade talks announcement comes after Beijing fired missiles into the sea to intimidate Taiwan after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this month became the highest ranking US official to visit the island in 25 years.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government has criticized the planned talks as a violation of its position that Taiwan has no right to foreign relations. He warned Washington not to encourage the island to try to make its de facto independence permanent, a step that Beijing said would lead to war.

“China strongly opposes it,” Commerce Ministry spokesman Shu Jueting said. She called on Washington to “fully respect China’s fundamental interests”.

Also on Thursday, the Taiwanese military held a drill with missiles and cannons simulating a response to a Chinese missile attack.

Taiwan and China separated in 1949 after a civil war and have no official relations but are linked by billions of dollars in trade and investment. The island was never part of the People’s Republic of China, but the ruling Communist Party says it has an obligation to unite with the mainland, by force if necessary.

President Joe Biden’s coordinator for the Indo-Pacific region, Kurt Campbell, said last week that trade talks would “deepen our ties with Taiwan,” but stressed that the policy was not changing. The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, its ninth largest trading partner, but maintains extensive informal ties.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s announcement of the talks made no mention of tension with Beijing, but said “formal negotiations” would develop trade and regulatory ties, a step that would lead to closer official interaction.

Being allowed to export more to the United States could help Taiwan blunt China’s efforts to use its status as the island’s biggest trading partner as political leverage. The mainland blocked imports of Taiwanese citrus fruits and other foods in retaliation for Pelosi’s Aug. 2 visit.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry has expressed its “warm welcome” to the trade talks, which it says will lead to a “new page” in relations with the United States.

“While the situation across the Taiwan Strait has recently worsened, the US government will continue to take concrete steps to maintain security and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” he said in a statement. .

US-China relations are at their lowest level in decades amid disputes over trade, security, technology and Beijing’s treatment of Muslim minorities and Hong Kong.

The US Trade Representative said the negotiations would be conducted under the auspices of Washington’s unofficial embassy, ​​the American Institute in Taiwan.

“China always opposes any form of official exchanges between any country and the Chinese region of Taiwan,” said Shu, the Chinese spokesperson. “China will take all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard its sovereignty.”

Washington says it does not take a position on the status of China and Taiwan but wants their dispute to be settled peacefully. The US government is obligated by federal law to ensure that the island has the means to defend itself.

“We will continue to take calm and resolute action to maintain peace and stability in the face of Beijing’s continued efforts to undermine it and to support Taiwan,” Campbell said on a conference call last Friday.

China absorbs more than twice as much of Taiwan’s exports as the United States, its second largest foreign market. The Taiwanese government says its companies have invested nearly $200 billion in the mainland. According to Beijing, a 2020 census found that some 158,000 Taiwanese entrepreneurs, professionals and others live on the mainland.

China’s ban on importing citrus, fish and hundreds of other Taiwanese food products has hurt rural areas seen as supporters of President Tsai Ing-wen, but these products make up less than 0.5% of exports from Taiwan to the mainland.

Beijing has done nothing to affect the flow of processor chips from Taiwan needed by Chinese factories that assemble the world’s smartphones and consumer electronics. The island is the largest supplier of chips in the world.

A second group of US lawmakers led by Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, arrived in Taiwan on Sunday and met with Tsai. Beijing announced a second round of military exercises after their arrival.

Taiwan, with 23.6 million people, has launched its own military exercises in response.

On Thursday, drills at Hualien Air Base on the east coast simulated a response to a Chinese missile attack. Military personnel trained with Taiwanese-made Sky Bow 3 anti-aircraft missiles and 35mm anti-aircraft guns, but did not fire them.

“We didn’t panic” when China launched military drills, Air Force Major Chen Teh-huan said.

“Our usual training is to be available around the clock to prepare for missile launches,” Chen said. “We were ready.”

The U.S.-Taiwanese talks will also cover agriculture, labor, environment, digital technology, status of state-owned enterprises and “non-trade policies”, the U.S. trade representative said.

Washington and Beijing are locked in a 3-year-old tariff war over many of the same issues.

They include China’s support for state-owned companies that dominate many of its industries and complaints that Beijing is stealing foreign technology and limiting access to a range of areas in violation of its market-opening commitments.

Then-President Donald Trump raised tariffs on Chinese goods in 2019 in response to complaints that his technology development tactics violate his free trade commitments and threaten American industrial leadership. Biden left most of those tariff hikes in place.

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