The US government will hold trade talks with Taiwan in a sign of support for island democracy, which China claims as its territory, prompting Beijing to warn on Thursday that it will “protect its sovereignty” if necessary. will take action.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this month became the highest-ranking US official to visit the island in 25 years after Beijing fired missiles into the sea to intimidate Taiwan after announcing trade talks.

The government of Chinese President Xi Jinping criticized the planned talks as a violation of its stance that Taiwan has no right to foreign relations. It warned Washington not to encourage the island to try to make its de facto independence permanent, a move Beijing says would lead to war.

Commerce Ministry spokesman Xu Xueting said, ‘China strongly opposes this. He called on Washington to “fully respect China’s core interests.”

Also on Thursday, Taiwan’s military conducted an exercise with missiles and artillery, simulating the response to a Chinese missile attack.

Taiwan and China separated after civil war in 1949 and have no official relationship but are bound by billions of dollars in trade and investment. The island has never been part of the People’s Republic of China, but the ruling Communist Party says it is obliged to unite with the mainland if necessary.

President Biden’s coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, Kurt Campbell, said last week that trade talks would “deepen our ties with Taiwan” but insisted the policy was not changing. The United States has no diplomatic relations with Taiwan, Taiwan’s ninth largest trading partner, but maintains extensive informal relations.

The announcement by the US Trade Representative’s office made no mention of tensions with Beijing, but said “formal talks” would develop trade and regulatory ties, a move that would complement close official talks.

“It is expected that the first round of talks will take place early this fall,” the announcement said.

Allowing the United States to export more could help Taiwan blunt China’s efforts to use its position as the island’s largest trading partner for political gains. In retaliation for Pelosi’s August 2 visit, the mainland blocked Taiwan’s imports of citrus and other foods.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry expressed “high welcome” to the trade talks, saying it would lead to a “new page” in relations with the United States.

“As the situation in the Strait of Taiwan has recently escalated, the US government will continue to take concrete actions to maintain security and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” the statement said.

US-Chinese relations are at their lowest level in decades amid trade, security, technology and disputes with Beijing’s Muslim minorities and Hong Kong.

The US trade representative said the talks would be held under the auspices of the US Institute in Taiwan, the unofficial embassy of Washington.

“China always opposes any kind of official exchanges between any country and the Taiwan region of China,” Chinese spokesman Xu said. “China will take all necessary measures to protect its sovereignty.”

Washington says it does not take a stand on the situation in China and Taiwan, but wants their dispute to be resolved peacefully. The US government is bound by federal law to see that the island has the means to defend itself.

“We will continue to take calm and firm steps to maintain peace and stability in the face of Beijing’s ongoing efforts to undermine it and support Taiwan,” Campbell said during a conference call last Friday.

China exports more than twice as many Taiwan exports as the United States, its No. 2 overseas market. Taiwan’s government says its companies have invested about $200 billion in the mainland. Beijing says the 2020 census found that about 158,000 Taiwanese entrepreneurs, professionals and others live on the mainland.

China’s ban on imports of citrus, fish and hundreds of other Taiwanese food products has hurt rural areas, which are seen as supporters of President Tsai Ing-wen, but those goods account for much of Taiwan’s exports to the mainland. is less than 0.5%.

Beijing did nothing that could affect the flow of processor chips from Taiwan that are needed by the Chinese factories that assemble the world’s smartphones and consumer electronics. The island is the world’s largest chip supplier.

A second group of US lawmakers, led by Democrat Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, arrived in Taiwan on Sunday and met with Tsai. Beijing announced a second round of military exercises after his arrival.

Taiwan, with 23.6 million people, has launched its military exercises in response.

“We didn’t panic” when China began military exercises, Air Force Major Chen Teh-huan said.

“Our usual training is to be on call 24 hours a day to prepare for the missile launch,” Chen said. “We were ready.”

The US-Taiwan talks will also cover agriculture, labor, the environment, digital technology, the status of state-owned enterprises and “non-market policies”, the US trade representative said.

Washington and Beijing are locked in a 3-year-old tariff war on many similar issues.

These include China’s support for state-run companies that dominate many of its industries and complaints that Beijing steals foreign technology and limits access to many sectors in violation of its market-opening commitments.

Then-President Donald Trump raised tariffs on Chinese goods in 2019 in response to complaints that its technology development strategy violates its free-trade commitments and threatens US industrial leadership. Biden has given up on most of those tariff hikes.

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