China has warned the United States against taking “dangerous moves,” on Taiwan after Washington announced it was sending a senior official on a diplomatic visit to the self-ruled island.
In a 90-minute phone call with US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe said on Thursday that Washington needs to “stop erroneous words and deeds.”
He called on Washington to “avoid taking dangerous moves that may escalate the situation,” in Taiwan and the South China Sea.
The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) announced on Wednesday that Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar will be leading a delegation to Taiwan on an upcoming visit to meet with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.
China, which has sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan, was angered by the announcement.
Under the “One China” policy, almost all world countries recognize Beijing’s sovereignty.
The US also recognizes Chinese sovereignty over the island but has long courted Taipei in an attempt to counter Beijing.
Tsai, however, welcomed the US diplomat’s trip to Taiwan as “another testament to the strong Taiwan-US partnership.”
Washington, which has no formal diplomatic relations with Taipei by law, is the island’s largest weapons supplier and an avid backer of Taiwan’s secessionist president Tsai, causing increasing tensions with Beijing over trade and a host of other issues.
Esper accuses China of ‘destabilizing’ activity
Esper, for his part, once again accused Beijing of conducting “destabilizing” activity near Taiwan and the South China Sea.
“Secretary Esper also communicated the importance that the PRC (People’s Republic of China) abide by international laws, rules and norms and meet its international commitments,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters.
Beijing claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea and has repeatedly warned the US against its military activities in the sea, saying that potential close military encounters by the air and naval forces of the two countries in the region could easily trigger accidents.
The United States, which sides with Beijing’s rival claimants in the maritime dispute, however, continues sending warships and warplanes to the South China Sea to assert what it calls its right to “freedom of navigation,” ratcheting up tensions with China.
A separate Pentagon statement said on Thursday that both sides agreed on “developing the systems necessary for crisis communications and risk reduction.”
The high-level talks took place amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing over a series of issues, including trade, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump imposes bans on TikTok, WeChat
In the latest move that escalates tensions, President Donald Trump issued executive orders on Thursday that would ban the social media apps TikTok and WeChat from operating in the US if they are not sold by their Chinese-owned parent companies within 45 days.
Trump threatened to “take aggressive action against the owners.”
The move came after the Trump administration said this week that it was stepping up efforts to purge “un-trusted” Chinese apps from US digital networks and described TikTok and messenger app WeChat as “significant threats.”
It alleged that TikTok “automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users,” such as location data and browsing and search histories, which “threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information — potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.”
The purported concerns expose what the US government has been doing for years, forcing tech giants in the United States, Europe and elsewhere to share their smartphone data from their users with American authorities.
The US has long been using national security concerns as an excuse to impose a ban on Chinese communication apps and technologies.
The Trump administration has blacklisted Chinese tech giant, Huawei, in an attempt to block the company from getting any US telecom equipment and infrastructure contracts and prevent the transfer of American technology to the Chinese firm, citing “security concerns.”