China slams UK trade minister’s visit to Taiwan

BEIJING (AP) — China on Monday slammed the visit to Taiwan by British trade policy minister Greg Hands, the latest foreign official to defy Beijing’s warnings about contact with the autonomous island republic.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory and threatens to annex it by force. It also seeks to isolate it diplomatically, requiring governments with which it has formal relations to respect its “one China” principle.

The UK should “sincerely respect China’s sovereignty, uphold the one-China principle, end all forms of official contact with Taiwan, and stop sending the wrong signals to Taiwan separatist forces,” it said. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily press briefing.

The British government said Hands was on a two-day visit during which he would meet Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and co-host the 25th annual trade talks between the parties. China has imposed visa bans and other forms of retaliation against foreign officials and governments who expand their contacts in Taiwan.

Taiwan maintains official diplomatic relations with only 14 countries and is excluded from the United Nations and other major multinational groups at Beijing’s insistence. Yet its thriving democracy, high-tech economy and strategic Asia-Pacific location have drawn strong support despite Beijing’s condemnations and threats.

Following a visit to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House and Second in the Presidency, China fired missiles over Taiwan in the Western Pacific and positioned planes and ships nearby in a virtual blockade of the island.

These steps seem to have had little effect and visits by European and North American elected officials have continued.

Referring to Tsai’s ruling party and its strong support from the United States and other Western democracies, Zhao warned Taiwanese officials that “their attempt to seek independence with foreign support is doomed.” .

Beijing’s close ties with Moscow after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine further complicated matters.

Latvia and Estonia have quit a China-backed forum aimed at boosting ties with Eastern European countries following China’s strengthening of ties with Russia. China has refused to criticize Russia for its attack on Ukraine and has condemned the economic sanctions imposed on Moscow by the West.

Russia’s struggles in Ukraine have meanwhile refocused attention on China’s possible military intentions towards Taiwan. This prompted a focus on the island’s combat forces and technology to thwart Chinese aggression.

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