August 22, 2017 / 8:50 AM / 2 years ago

China warns U.S. ahead of Taiwan defense minister's brief visit

BEIJING/TAIPEI (Reuters) - China warned the United States on Tuesday against any military contacts with Taiwan ahead of brief visits by the self-ruled island’s defense minister to the United States on his way to and from Central American allies.

Taiwan Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuan attends a parliamentary session at Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan March 16, 2017.REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

The United States is Taiwan’s main source of weapons and Taiwan has been pressing for sales of more advanced equipment to deal with the rapidly modernizing military of China, which claims Taiwan as its own.

Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuan would make brief transit stops in New York and Los Angeles on his Aug. 23-Sept. 8 trip, and had nothing else on his agenda in the United States, the ministry said.

Feng would visit Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic to “further deepen bilateral friendly relations”, the ministry said in a statement.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had noted the reports.

“China consistently insists on using the ‘one China’ principle in handling the issue of the Taiwan region’s exchanges, and firmly opposes country’s with which China has established relations conducting any type of official contact or military exchanges with Taiwan,” Hua told reporters.

“Our position is clear and consistent. I believe the United States is extremely clear on this.”

Taiwan presidents and other senior officials frequently stop over in the United States while visiting Taiwan’s dwindling number of allies in Latin America and the Caribbean, always drawing China’s ire.

China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, and has stepped up military drills around the island in recent months. Proudly democratic Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by autocratic China.

Taiwan now only has official diplomatic ties with 20 countries. Panama dropped its diplomatic ties with Taiwan to instead recognize China in June. China says Taiwan is merely a province with no right to diplomatic ties with other countries.

The United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, acknowledging that China takes the position that there is “one China” and Taiwan is part of it. But the United States is also duty-bound by legislation to help the island defend itself.

Reporting by Faith Hung; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard and Michael Martina in BEIJING; Editing by Nick Macfie

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