China sees red as Pompeo congratulates Taiwan president, says message ‘dangerous'

People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers are seen next to a poster with a picture of Chinese President Xi Jinping next to the entrance to the Forbidden City in Beijing. (AFP)

China on Wednesday lambasted US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for sending a congratulatory message to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on her inauguration, saying it was “extremely wrong, and it’s also very dangerous.”

Beijing views the island as part of its territory and has vowed to seize it by force if necessary.

“The US move... seriously interferes in China’s internal affairs and seriously damages peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” the defense ministry said in a statement.

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Pompeo sent a message hailing Tsai for her “courage and vision in leading Taiwan’s vibrant democracy” -- a rare direct message from a US official.

“It is extremely wrong, and it’s also very dangerous,” China’s defense ministry said.

It warned that the People’s Liberation Army had the “will, the confidence and the capability to defeat any form of external interference and the plot of ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces.”

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The statement said China would take “all necessary measures to firmly defend China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Tsai is loathed by Beijing because her party views Taiwan as a de facto sovereign state and not part of “one China.”

In her inauguration speech, Tsai said China must find a way to live peacefully alongside a democratic Taiwan.

Since she first came to office in 2016, Beijing has rebuffed offers of talks and ramped up economic, military and diplomatic pressure on the island.

In a speech after being sworn in for her second and final term in office, Tsai said relations between Taiwan and China had reached an historical turning point.

Read more: China mocks US Secretary Pompeo credibility in social media video

“Both sides have a duty to find a way to coexist over the long term and prevent the intensification of antagonism and differences,” she said.

Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party won January’s presidential and parliamentary elections by a landslide, vowing to stand up to China, which claims Taiwan as its own and says it would be brought under Beijing’s control by force if needed.

Taiwan cannot accept becoming part of China under its “one country, two systems” offer of autonomy, President Tsai Ing-wen said, strongly rejecting China’s sovereignty claims and likely setting thestage for an ever worsening of ties.

“Here, I want to reiterate the words ‘peace, parity, democracy, and dialogue’. We will not accept the Beijing authorities’ use of ‘one country, two systems’ to downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo. We stand fast by this principle,” Tsai said.

China responded that “reunification” was inevitable and that it would never tolerate Taiwan’s independence.

China uses the “one country, two systems” policy, which is supposed to guarantee a high degree of autonomy, to run the former British colony of Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997. It has offered it to Taiwan, though all major Taiwanese parties have rejected it.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, responding to Tsai, said Beijing would stick to “one country, two systems” -- a central tenet of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Taiwan policy - and “not leave any space for Taiwan independence separatist activities.”.

“Reunification is a historical inevitability of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” it said. “We have the firm will, full confidence, and sufficient ability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

China views Tsai as a separatist bent on formal independence for Taiwan. Tsai says Taiwan is an independent state called the Republic of China, its official name, and does not want to be part of the People’s Republic of China governed by Beijing.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 18:37 - GMT 15:37
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