China's Global Times editorial says US is opening 'new offensive' on Taiwan

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had called for countries to give Taiwan a greater role at the UN. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - China rebuked US efforts to boost Taiwan's participation in UN organisations, saying the self-ruled island has "no right" to join the world body a half century after it was booted out.

"The United Nations is an international governmental organisation composed of sovereign states," Mr Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office in Beijing, told a regular news briefing on Wednesday (Oct 27). "Taiwan is a part of China. The People's Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China. Taiwan has no right to join the United Nations."

Mr Ma was responding to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's call on Tuesday for countries to join the US in pushing to give Taiwan a greater role at the UN.

Taiwan should "abandon the illusion of relying on the US for independence", Mr Ma said. The Communist Party's Global Times newspaper separately published an editorial accusing Mr Blinken of trying to upgrade Washington's approach toward Taipei and opening a "new offensive" on Taiwan.

China won't "step back an inch" on the issue, the Chinese-language edition of the nationalistic tabloid said, arguing that the call would be rejected by most UN members.

While the government in Beijing replaced Taipei's as China's representative at the UN in 1971, the Communist Party did for a time allow the island to participate in some international organisations, such as the World Health Organisation.

Beijing has sought to that roll back since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was elected in 2016 and refused to accept that both sides are part of "one China".

"Taiwan's exclusion undermines the important work of the UN and its related bodies, all of which stand to benefit greatly from its contributions," Mr Blinken said in a statement. "The fact that Taiwan participated robustly in certain UN specialised agencies for the vast majority of the past 50 years is evidence of the value the international community places in Taiwan's contributions."

Despite the "tens of millions of passengers travelling annually through its airports", Taiwan wasn't represented at the International Civil Aviation Organisation assembly, Mr Blinken said, adding that Taipei was also absent from the World Health Assembly despite the world having "much to learn" from its pandemic response.

Mr Blinken's comments come after President Joe Biden said last week the US was committed to defending Taiwan from a Chinese attack, in some of his strongest comments yet as the administration faces calls to clarify its stance on the democratically ruled island. A White House spokesman later said Mr Biden wasn't announcing a change in US policy toward Taiwan, which calls for supporting the democracy's self-defence and opposing unilateral changes in the status quo.

The Biden administration has struggled to balance the demands of those seeking greater support for Taiwan and others worried about a potential military confrontation with nuclear-armed China. After Mr Biden in August equated the US' security commitment to Taiwan with its formal alliances with nations such as Japan and South Korea, the administration also clarified that its position was unchanged.

President Xi Jinping took a veiled swipe at Washington's efforts on Monday, saying in a speech marking the 50th anniversary of the UN shake-up that China "resolutely opposed hegemonism and power politics".

Mr Xi argued that international rules could only be set by the UN's 193 member states, a group dominated by developing nations with close trade and financial ties to Beijing.

The Biden administration's push for a greater UN role for Taiwan is one area of continuity with former President Donald Trump. Their efforts mark a departure from predecessors such as former President Bill Clinton, who during a 1998 visit to Shanghai embraced China's "Three Nos" on Taiwan, saying among other things, that the US doesn't "believe that Taiwan should be a member in any organisation for which statehood is a requirement".

Subsequent American leaders brought China deeper into traditionally US-led multilateral organisations, with President George W. Bush advocating for its accession into the World Trade Organisation in 2001. Many in Washington now argue that the policy failed to spur liberalisation in China and express concern that Mr Xi's campaign to isolate Taiwan might culminate in an effort to take island by force.

During a defence conference on Tuesday, Mr Xi called for the establishment of a modern management system for weapons and equipment, while creating a "new situation" for their construction, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. He praised the country's achievements over the past five years, saying "such progress has served as the material and technological underpinning for the country's strategic capabilities, military strength in particular".

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