China's Wang says Taiwan issue biggest threat to Sino-U.S. ties

Credit: REUTERS/DENIS BALIBOUSE

By Chayut Setboonsarng and Liangping Gao

BANGKOK/BEIJING, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan held candid talks in Bangkok aimed at keeping in contact, both sides said, with Wang stressing that "Taiwan independence" posed the biggest risk to Sino-U.S. ties.

The meeting came just over two months after U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco.

China and the United States had a rocky start to 2023 but met more often in the second half of the year to try to stabilise ties ahead of democratic Taiwan's presidential transition in May and a potentially caustic 2024 U.S. election campaign.

China's struggling economy may also dampen Beijing's appetite for what had been more combative ties with Washington amid improving Chinese relations with Russia.

Wang and Sullivan agreed to properly handle important and sensitive issues in U.S.-China relations, China's foreign ministry said, and for Xi and Biden to "maintain regular contact to provide strategic guidance for bilateral relations ... and make good use of the current strategic communication channels".

In San Francisco, Xi and Biden agreed to open a presidential hotline, resume military-to-military communications, and work to curb fentanyl production, but remained at odds over Taiwan.

China claims the island as its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under its control. Taiwan strongly objects to China’s sovereignty claims and says only the island’s people can decide their future.

Saturday's meeting was the latest quiet engagement between Wang and Sullivan, who reports directly to Biden, having met previously away from media to try to lower the temperature.

Wang, according to a foreign ministry statement, told Sullivan the two countries should treat each other as equals and respect their core interests, rather than undermine them, and "build mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation" to establish the "correct way for China and the United States to get along".

Wang said Taiwan was China's internal affair, and a recent election there "cannot change the basic fact that Taiwan is a part of China".

China criticised the United States on Thursday for causing "trouble and provocation" after the U.S. Navy sailed its first warship through the sensitive waters separating China and Taiwan since the election.

The United States is Taiwan's biggest ally and arms supplier but acknowledges China's position that there is “one China” and Taiwan is part of it.

"The biggest risk to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is 'Taiwan independence' and the biggest challenge to China-U.S. relations is also 'Taiwan independence'," Wang was quoted as saying.

Wang told Sullivan all countries had national security concerns, "but they must be legitimate and reasonable", the statement added.

The White House in a statement said both Wang and Sullivan recognised recent progress in resuming military-to-military communication and the importance of maintaining those channels.

"Mr. Sullivan stressed that although the United States and China are in competition, both countries need to prevent it from veering into conflict or confrontation."

It said the two countries would hold the first meeting of the China-U.S. intergovernmental dialogue mechanism on artificial intelligence this spring.

(Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng in Bangkok and Liangping Gao in Beijing; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Nick Macfie)

((martin.petty@tr.com))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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