China warns US ahead of Taiwan Defence Minister's brief visit

BEIJING/TAIPEI (Reuters) - China warned the United States on Tuesday (Aug 22) against any military contacts with Taiwan ahead of brief visits by the self-ruled island's Defence Minister to the US on his way to and from Central American allies.

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

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

Mr Feng will 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 spokesman 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 countries with which China has established relations conducting any type of official contact or military exchanges with Taiwan," Ms 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 US 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 has official diplomatic ties with only 20 countries. Panama dropped its diplomatic ties with Taiwan to instead recognise China in June. China says Taiwan is merely a province with no right to diplomatic ties with other countries.

The US 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 US is also duty-bound by legislation to help the island defend itself.

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