China on Friday cut ties with the United States on vital issues — including military affairs and crucial climate cooperation — as concerns mounted that the communist government’s hostile response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan could signal a sustained, more aggressive move. approach to its American rival and the self-governed island.
China’s decision to freeze key communication lines exacerbated the deterioration in relations following Pelosi’s visit and China’s response with military exercises off Taiwan, including firing missiles that crashed into surrounding waters.
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After the White House summoned Chinese Ambassador Qin Gang to protest military exercises late Thursday, White House spokesman John Kirby on Friday condemned the decision to end important dialogue with the United States as “irresponsible.” “.
The White House spokesman criticized China’s “provocative” actions since Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, which China claims is part of its territory. But Kirby noted that some channels of communication remain open between military officials in the two countries. He repeated daily assurances that the US had not changed its policy towards the communist mainland and the self-governed island.
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“The bottom line is that we continue our efforts to keep opening lines of communication that protect our interests and our values,” Kirby said. He declined to speak about any damage to long-term relations between China and the United States, calling that a discussion for later.
Taiwan has been beefing up its military and organizing civilian defense exercises, but the general mood remained calm on Friday. Flights have been canceled or diverted and fishermen have stayed in port to avoid the Chinese exercises.
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On the Chinese coast opposite Taiwan, tourists gathered to catch a glimpse of military aircraft.
A minister at the Chinese embassy in Washington, Jing Quan, told reporters that Pelosi’s mission to support the democratic government of Taiwan “has had a serious impact on the political foundation of China-US relations, seriously China’s sovereignty and (territorial) integrity and … undermines peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
In the long run, a significantly more confrontational relationship between China and the US threatens a balance in which the governments of Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping have talked about human rights, trade, competition and countless other issues, but avoided and occasionally avoided direct conflict. have maintained contacts at the highest level on other issues, including the reduction of climate-damaging emissions.
A joint US-China deal to fight climate change signed by Xi and then-President Barack Obama in November 2014 is seen as a turning point leading to the landmark 2015 Paris agreement in which nearly every country in the world pledged to try to reduce the emission of heat-trapping gases. Seven years later, during climate talks in Glasgow, another agreement between the US and China helped smooth the hurdles to another international climate agreement.
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China and the United States are the number 1 and 2 climate polluters in the world, together producing almost 40% of all fossil fuel emissions.
Ominously, experts in China-US relations warned that China’s diplomatic and military actions appeared to go beyond retaliatory measures for the visit and could usher in a new, openly more hostile era and a more uncertain time for Taiwan’s democratic government.
Relations between China and the US are “on a downward spiral,” said Bonnie Glaser, head of the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund.
“And I think China is likely to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait in a way that will be detrimental to Taiwan and detrimental to the United States,” Glaser said.
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In recent years, other tensions between China and its neighbors over its border with India, the regional islands and the South China Sea have ended, with China making and enforcing new territorial claims, noted John Culver, a former national intelligence officer. in East Asia, now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. The same could now happen over Taiwan, Culver said. “So I don’t know how this ends. We’ve seen how it starts.”
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China’s measures this week are the latest steps intended to punish the US for allowing the visit to the island it claims as its own territory to be forcibly annexed if necessary. China began threatening military exercises off the coast of Taiwan on Thursday, lasting through Sunday.
Some missiles flew over Taiwan itself, Chinese officials told state media, significantly increasing the threat to the island from China.
China routinely complains when Taiwan has direct contacts with foreign governments, but the response to the visit by Pelosi – she was the most senior US official in 25 years – has been unusually strong.
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It seems to derail a rare encouraging comment: high-level face-to-face meetings between top officials in recent months, including the heads of defense at an Asian security conference in Singapore and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a group meeting. of 20 in Indonesia.
Those conversations were seen as steps in a positive direction in an otherwise poisoned relationship. Now, talks have even been suspended over the climate, where the two countries’ envoys had met several times.
China has stopped suspending economic and trade talks, with Biden seeking to lift tariffs President Donald Trump has imposed on imports from China.
On Friday, China’s foreign ministry said it would cancel dialogue between US and Chinese regional commanders and heads of defense departments, along with talks on military maritime security. Cooperation on the return of illegal immigrants, criminal investigations, cross-border crime, illegal drugs and climate change will be suspended, the ministry said.
China’s actions are ahead of a major ruling Communist Party congress later this year, where President Xi is expected to receive a third five-year term as party leader. With the economy stagnating, the party has fueled nationalism and carried out almost daily attacks on the government of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, which refuses to recognize Taiwan as part of China.
China said Friday that more than 100 warplanes and 10 warships have participated in live-fire military exercises around Taiwan in the past two days. Also mainly symbolic sanctions against Pelosi and her family were announced.
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On the Chinese coast, fighter jets could be heard flying overhead, and tourists taking photos chanted “Let’s take back Taiwan,” overlooking the blue waters of the Taiwan Strait from Pingtan Island, a popular scenic spot in China’s Fujian province.
Pelosi’s visit has sparked emotions among the Chinese public, and the government’s response “makes us feel that our motherland is very powerful and gives us confidence that Taiwan’s return is the irresistible trend,” said Wang Lu, a tourist from neighboring Zhejiang Province.
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China is a “powerful country and it will not allow anyone to insult its own territory,” said Liu Bolin, a high school student visiting the island.
China’s insistence that Taiwan be its territory and its threat to use force to regain control have featured in statements by the Communist Party, the education system, and the state-controlled media for more than seven decades since the parties took part in 1949. divided into a civil war.
The people of Taiwan are overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining the status quo of de facto independence and reject China’s demand that the island unite with the mainland under communist control.
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Outside of Taiwan, five of the missiles fired by China have landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone near Hateruma, an island far south of Japan’s main islands, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said. He said Japan protested the missiles to China as “serious threats to Japanese national security and the safety of the Japanese people”.
In Tokyo, where Pelosi is ending her Asia trip, she said China cannot stop US officials from visiting Taiwan.
AP writer David Rising reported from Phnom Penh. AP writers Huizhong Wu in Taipei, Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, and Seth Borenstein and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed.
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