BEIJING: In their first defence talks of the year, China vowed on Wednesday it will “never compromise” on Taiwan and told the US to stop providing military aid, days ahead of a crucial election on the self-ruled island.

Saturday’s election is being closely watched – including by policymakers in Beijing and Washington – as its outcome will impact the future of Taiwan’s relations with an increasingly assertive China.

At the talks, held at the Pentagon on Monday and Tuesday, Chinese officials demanded that Washington “stop arming Taiwan, and oppose Taiwan’s ‘independence’”, according to a Chinese defence ministry readout.

According to the Pentagon’s readout, the US reaffirmed its calls for “peace and stability” across the Taiwan Strait.

The two sides also discussed the crucial waterway, where the two powers last week held rival drills, and which has seen a spate of standoffs between Beijing and Manila in recent months.

According to the readout from Beijing, the Chinese officials urged their US counterparts to stop their “provocative actions” in the waterway.

Washington, in response, asserted its belief in the “importance of respect for high seas freedom of navigation” in light of “repeated” Chinese “harassment against lawfully operating Philippine vessels in the South China Sea”.

The US side also stressed the importance of “maintaining open lines of military-to-military communication”, according to the Pentagon’s readout, “to prevent competition from veering into conflict”.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2024

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