Beijing reportedly told the top US diplomat that the leading candidate in the Taipei election could cause new tensions
Chinese officials have warned US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the actions of Taiwan’s “pro-independence” vice president, Lai Ching-te, could exacerbate tensions between Beijing and Taipei, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing people briefed on the matter.
The conversation reportedly took place during Blinken’s visit to China last week, where he met with President Xi Jinping.
According to the WSJ, Blinken was asked if the US saw Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as a friend, and whether Washington had “a vested interest” in the outcome of the presidential election, which will take place on the island in January.
Blinken reportedly insisted that the US would be “even-handed” on the election and that Washington did not support outside meddling in the voting process.
Beijing, which views self-governing Taiwan as its sovereign territory, has repeatedly accused the US of propping up “secessionist” politicians in Taipei. Although the US has refrained from establishing formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, American politicians have had meetings with local officials. Beijing considers such contacts, as well as the sale of US weapons to Taiwan, to be a violation of the ‘One China’ principle.
Beijing held large-scale snap military exercises around the island following then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August 2022 and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s trip to the US in March 2023.
Lai, who is currently leading in the polls for the 2024 Taiwanese presidential election, described himself in the past as “a pragmatic political worker for Taiwanese independence.” He later clarified that he would not seek to change the current political status of Taiwan.
“I would like to reiterate that Taiwan is already an independent and sovereign nation and thus we do not have a need to further declare Taiwan independence,” Lai said in January, according to Focus Taiwan.
Blinken traveled to China on 18-19 June. Both sides had voiced cautious optimism about the outcome of the negotiations. Beijing, however, strongly condemned remarks from President Joe Biden, who branded Xi a “dictator” shortly after Blinken’s return home.