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Trump’s Taiwan travel act spurs threat of military action from China

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On Friday last week, US President Donald Trump signed into law the Taiwan Travel Act.
It sounds innocuous enough. But it’s prompted a major backlash from Beijing, reported News.com.au (Australia).

The prospect of improved relations between the ‘black sheep’ of the Chinese family, Taiwan, and the United States is one it will not tolerate.

State-run media has responded with threats of ‘military pressure’.

“China will and should take timely countermeasures against the US and all ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist forces through diplomatic and military means if US legislation that encourages high-level contact between the US and the island of Taiwan is implemented,” Beijing’s state-controlled Global Times asserted.

It follows a move by President Trump in December to allow US warships to visit Taiwan on ‘courtesy’ visits. China has stated such a military visit would be seen as a direct provocation that could provoke war.

The Taiwan Travel Act appears to be a reversal to decades of international appeasement towards China’s assertions over Taiwan.

The United States abandoned diplomatic relations with the island nation in 1979 amid Communist China’s “One China” outrage at the idea Taiwan could be recognised as an independent democratic state.

Much of the rest of the Western world followed suit.
But, as of Saturday, Trump’s new travel act came into force.

It encourages a “robust unofficial relationship” through increased ties between the US and Taiwan at all levels, from tourism through to diplomats.

Beijing’s response has been forceful.

It will not tolerate acceptance of the self-ruled democracy as being anything other than its own province.

Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council at the weekend issued a statement saying that the island will suffer serious consequences if it attempts to act on the US bill.

“The passing of the act is a serious political provocation, as it has crossed the ‘red line’ and will thoroughly undermine relations,” The Global Times quotes retired China’s People’s Liberation Army major general Xu Guangyu as saying.

That ‘red line’ is the prospect of formal independence.

“If any ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist forces perceive the US bill as a ‘pro-independence’ signal, the Chinese army will resume its military probes circling the island and send more military vessels and aeroplanes to patrol the Straits,” US relations academic Liu Weidong is quoted as saying.

It’s complicated.
Communist China insists Taiwan is its territory.

The island, which borders the East and South China Seas as well as the Pacific, was the last refuge of the Republic of China’s government after the Communist revolution in 1949.

But its story goes back much further than that.

It was occupied by an indigenous people before Western traders enabled a mass Chinese emigration to the island in the 1800s. It was then annexed by the Qing dynasty of Chinese emperors. Japan seized the island in 1895. The Republic of China took control of the island after World War II.

It’s been struggling to be recognised on the world stage as an independent democracy ever since. Beijing won’t have a bar of it.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry stated: “We urge the US side to correct its mistake, stop pursuing any official ties with Taiwan or improving its current relations with Taiwan in any substantive way, and handle Taiwan-related issues properly and cautiously so as to avoid causing severe damage to the China-US relations and cross-Straits peace and stability.”

Beijing believes it has the right to intervene in Taiwan militarily.

In 2005, the Communist party passed a law enabling the use of ‘non-peaceful means’ to prevent any moves by Taiwan to seek full independence.

Taiwan’s government has recently expressed deepening concern at increases of Chinese military activity around its borders. Combat aircraft, nuclear-capable bombers and Beijing’s aircraft carrier Liaoning have been making regular forays around its coast.

“If the US were to send any senior officials to Taiwan or make any moves to elevate its relations with the island of Taiwan, China would have no choice but to respond with counter moves that will deeply impact the US,” Liu reportedly said.

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Reporter: Denes Osvalt
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