China's new US envoy says Taiwan issue is most important in ties

He and US Deputy Secretary of State agree on need to resolve bilateral issues via dialogue

China's newly appointed ambassador to the US, Mr Qin Gang, meeting US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in Washington on Thursday. PHOTO: WENDY R. SHERMAN/ TWITTER
China's newly appointed ambassador to the US, Mr Qin Gang, meeting US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in Washington on Thursday. PHOTO: WENDY R. SHERMAN/ TWITTER

BEIJING • China's newly appointed ambassador in Washington has emphasised the utmost importance of Taiwan in the Sino-US relationship during his first meeting with a top US official since assuming the job, according to Chinese state media.

Mr Qin Gang, 55, who has earned a reputation for pointed public defences of his country's positions, struck an optimistic tone as he arrived in Washington in late July to take up his post, saying great potential awaited bilateral relations.

Meeting US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, Mr Qin said they both had an "in-depth, very frank" exchange of views, the official Xinhua news agency reported yesterday.

"The two sides agreed that Sino-US bilateral relations are very important, and it is necessary to resolve issues through dialogue and communication, manage differences and contradictions, and improve bilateral relations," Xinhua said.

The only issue to be directly mentioned in the report was Chinese-claimed Taiwan, the democratically ruled island that China considers its sovereign territory.

"Qin Gang emphasised that the Taiwan issue is the most important and sensitive issue in Sino-US relations. He clearly stated China's position to Sherman," Xinhua added, without elaborating.

In the last week of July, Ms Sherman held high-level talks in China that ended with both sides signalling that the other must make concessions for ties to improve.

China has been incensed by increased US support for Taiwan, including arms sales and Covid-19 vaccine donations, believing Washington is colluding with forces in Taiwan which are seeking the island's formal independence, a red line for Beijing.

The United States, like most countries, does not maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but is its strongest international backer and main supplier of arms.

Mr Qin previously served as a vice-foreign minister whose recent past portfolios included European affairs and protocol.

He also did two stints as a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman between 2006 and 2014.

He replaced China's longest serving ambassador to the US, Mr Cui Tiankai, 68, who last month announced his departure after eight years in Washington.

Meanwhile, Taiwan Vice-President William Lai, meeting the de facto US ambassador to Taipei, Ms Sandra Oudkirk, yesterday, expressed thanks for US support and its emphasising, along with US allies, of the importance of stability in the Taiwan Strait "in the face of threats from China".

"This is extremely helpful for Taiwan's society, cross-Taiwan Strait developments, and peace in the Indo-Pacific," the presidential office cited Mr Lai as saying.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2021, with the headline 'China's new US envoy says Taiwan issue is most important in ties'. Subscribe