US-Taiwan travel Bill angers China

WASHINGTON/BEIJING • The US Senate passed a Bill promoting closer ties with Taiwan, drawing an angry protest from China and adding further tension to bilateral relations already strained by trade.

The Taiwan Travel Act, intended to encourage visits between the United States and Taiwan "at all levels", was passed by unanimous consent on Wednesday, following its approval in the House of Representatives in January. The Bill adds that it should be US policy for high-level Taiwanese officials to enter the US, meet US officials and conduct business in the country.

President Donald Trump's signature is now all that is needed for the Bill to become law - something that is not likely to be an obstacle, given that the Bill was passed unanimously.

Washington cut formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979, recognising the mainland rulers in Beijing as the sole government of "one China", but is bound by law to help Taiwan defend itself and is the island's main source of arms.

China regularly says Taiwan, which it regards as a wayward province, is the most sensitive issue in its ties with Washington.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said yesterday that the Bill seriously violates the "one China" principle.

"China is strongly dissatisfied with this and resolutely opposes it, and has already lodged stern representations with the US side," she told a daily news briefing.

China urges the US to cease official exchanges with Taiwan and "prudently and appropriately handle issues related to Taiwan to avoid seriously interfering with and damaging China-US relations", she said.

The two countries are already at loggerheads over trade, with President Xi Jinping's close economic adviser Liu He in Washington this week to try and avert a trade war.

Mr Trump has vowed to take steps to crack down on imports of steel and aluminium and has been considering imposing hefty tariffs on imports of the metals from China and other countries.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry thanked the US for the unanimous support for the Bill and for the US government's increasingly friendly and open attitude towards Taiwan.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2018, with the headline 'US-Taiwan travel Bill angers China'. Print Edition | Subscribe