US-China relations deteriorating fast over flashpoint issues

Clashes over South China Sea, Taiwan and trade have plunged Trump and Xi into the diplomatic deep freeze

The Guardian
Date: 5 Jun 2018
By: Simon Tisdall 

The US and China may be heading for a collision over Trump’s attempts to cut a denuclearisation-for-normalisation deal with North Korea. Photograph: Andy Wong/AP

The US and China may be heading for a collision over Trump’s attempts to cut a denuclearisation-for-normalisation deal with North Korea. Photograph: Andy Wong/AP
China’s expanding efforts to impose its will on neighbours through diplomatic, commercial and military pressure – the so-called Xi doctrine – have drawn the sharpest riposte to date from the Trump administration, with Taiwan once again the main flashpoint in a sea of accelerating Sino-American rivalry.

Following recent verbal clashes over US “freedom of navigation” patrols in disputed South China Sea waters, officials in Washington say they plan to send a US aircraft carrier battlegroup into the Taiwan Strait separating the island from mainland China. The move was in response to China’s military “turning up the heat” on Taiwan, an official said.

Such a US deployment, if it goes ahead, would be seen as highly provocative by China’s president, Xi Jinping, who has vowed to reunify China with its “renegade province” in his lifetime. It would potentially bring the US navy into contact with Chinese surface and submarine forces and hundreds of People’s Liberation Army missile batteries lining the shores of the strait. Xi warned Taiwan’s pro-independence government in March that it would face the “punishment of history” if it pursued a separatist course.

On Tuesday, a foreign ministry spokeswoman cautioned Washington not to jeopardise peace. “We have repeatedly emphasised that the Taiwan issue is the most important and sensitive core issue in the China-US relationship,” she said.

Although the US does not recognise Taiwan as an independent country, it is, to all intents and purposes, its principal defender and guarantor against attack. Donald Trump outraged Beijing after he was elected by talking directly to Taiwan’s president by phone. Washington has sold Taiwan more than $15bn (£11.2bn) in arms since 2010, and Trump has increased bilateral contacts, including with the Pentagon.    [FULL  STORY]

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