China concerned over Taiwan content in US defence bill

A Taiwan Coast Guard ship uses its water cannon to put out a fire on a passing cargo ship, in a search and rescue drill near the Taiping Island in the South China Sea, on Nov 29, 2016.
A Taiwan Coast Guard ship uses its water cannon to put out a fire on a passing cargo ship, in a search and rescue drill near the Taiping Island in the South China Sea, on Nov 29, 2016. PHOTO: EPIA/MILITARY NEWS AGENCY HANDOUT

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China on Friday (Dec 2) expressed concern that an annual US defence policy bill suggests a plan to conduct high-level military exchanges with Taiwan, the self-governed island that Beijing sees as a breakaway province.

The US$618.7 billion (S$879 billion) National Defence Authorisation Act will likely come up for a vote in the US House of Representatives this week, and the Senate next week.

Part of the bill "expresses the sense of Congress that (the US Department of Defence) should conduct a programme of senior military exchanges between the United States and Taiwan".

China has "serious concerns" about the bill and urges the United States to "scrupulously abide" by the one-China policy so as to not damage broader US-China relations, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

"China firmly opposes the United States and Taiwan carrying out any form of official contact or military exchange," Geng told reporters at a regular press briefing.

China calls on all countries to recognise only one China, and its Beijing-based government, and not recognise Taiwan as a separate state.

Nevertheless, Taiwan and the United States have close security ties, which infuriates Beijing.

China is deeply suspicious of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who took office this year, as it suspects she will push for formal independence.

Tsai, who heads the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, says she wants to maintain the status quo with China and is committed to ensuring peace.

Defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan in 1949 after a civil war with the Communists. China has also never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.