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  • Writer's pictureBy The Financial District

U.S. Envoy Tells China: Your Belligerence On Taiwan Is The Problem

Nicholas Burns is trying to smooth over the controversy about US President Joe Biden’s vows to defend Taiwan if it were invaded — that the White House keeps trying to walk back — by arguing that US policy isn’t the problem, Stephen Collinson, Caitlin Hu, and Shelby Rose reported for CNN.

Photo Insert: Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen's latest meeting with US officials was with a bipartisan delegation of 8 members of Congress led by Rep. Steph Murphy.

“If anyone has changed the policy here, it's really the People's Republic of China with their overreaction nearly two months ago to Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi’s visit,” Burns said, accusing China of trampling norms that kept peace in the Taiwan Strait by simulating a naval and air blockade and firing missiles over the democratic island.

“So, we're actually concerned that the party trying to change policy here now is Beijing. And we've warned them that we won't agree to (it).”

Speaking via video link to the Milken Institute conference in Singapore, Burns insisted that the US had not made any change to its “One China” policy and that the “major problem” was a new offensive by China against Taiwan. “I don’t think the Chinese have any misunderstanding of US policy. They don’t agree with our policy,” he said.

China claims Taiwan as part of its territory despite never having governed it, with the imperial government issuing a decree that Taiwan was a province of China in 1888 and ceding it to Japan in 1895 after it was drubbed in the first Sino-Japanese War.

All the news: Business man in suit and tie smiling and reading a newspaper near the financial district.

Taiwan was not considered part of modern China as declared by Sun Yat-sen in 1910. Beijing has long vowed to "reunify" the island with the Chinese mainland, by force if necessary. It has accused the Biden administration of interfering in its internal affairs by selling arms to the island and emboldening Taiwan's pro-independence movement.

The US has long observed a position of strategic ambiguity that leaves unsaid how it would respond if China invaded Taiwan. The question is increasingly acute since US intelligence believes Beijing is building a military that would have the theoretical capacity to carry off such an operation.

Government & politics: Politicians, government officials and delegates standing in front of their country flags in a political event in the financial district.

The US stance is designed to keep China guessing and to discourage any formal independence declarations from Taiwan.

But China’s increasing might has some hawks in Washington calling for a clear, more robust US statement that Washington would use force. And Biden appears to sympathize.

Business: Business men in suite and tie in a work meeting in the office located in the financial district.

He’s said at least four times that Washington would use its military to defend Taiwan — apparently going further than US law which requires the US government to help the island buy arms to defend itself.

But each time Biden appears to break new ground, White House aides have insisted there has been no change to the US policy — creating a situation of strategic confusion.

Market & economy: Market economist in suit and tie reading reports and analysing charts in the office located in the financial district.

The comments by Burns are a clever way to deflect the question away from Biden towards China’s own belligerence. Maybe he’s right, and China knows exactly going on. But many Americans are still in the dark about what the President thinks.

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