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Taiwan, US Plan New Talks This Year    03/19 06:42

   Taiwan and the U.S. will hold talks later this year as part of upgraded 
efforts to counter Beijing's growing pressure on the island for political 
unification.

   TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- Taiwan and the U.S. will hold talks later this year 
as part of upgraded efforts to counter Beijing's growing pressure on the island 
for political unification.

   The talks planned for September in Taipei will include a senior official 
from Washington, de facto U.S. ambassador to Taipei William Brent Christensen 
said Tuesday.

   Christensen didn't say whether the consultations are meant to provoke China 
or push it to make changes. The U.S. has formal diplomatic relations with China 
but maintains strong ties with Taiwan though the American Institute in Taiwan, 
its de facto embassy in Taipei, which has recently undergone a major upgrade in 
facilities.

   "We believe it's possible to have a good relationship with Taiwan and a good 
relationship with China at the same time," Christensen said at a news 
conference. "Things we do with Taiwan should not be regarded as things that we 
are doing because we are seeking to provoke China or vice versa."

   President Donald Trump has elevated 40 years of informal ties with Taiwan 
through more open contacts and planned arms deals. Meanwhile, China and the 
U.S. are enmeshed in a dispute over trade, copyrights and tariffs, raising 
economic and political frictions to their highest level in a decade.

   Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said the "Indo-Pacific Democratic 
Governance Consultations" --- as the dialogue is termed --- would allow the two 
sides to "grow closer and more direct in their cooperation ... to protect 
regional freedom and legal order."

   Taiwan has been democratically ruled for about 30 years. It allows freedom 
of expression and religion in contrast to China's tight restrictions under 
authoritarian Communist Party rule, and remains a close U.S. ally in the 
Asia-Pacific region.

   While China insists that Taiwan is its territory to be brought under its 
control by force if necessary, more than 70 percent of Taiwanese oppose China's 
goal of unification, the government's Mainland Affairs Council spokesman said 
in January. Many fear Beijing would eliminate Taiwan's democratic institutions.

   While there was no immediate word from Beijing, China will "most definitely" 
protest the consultations, said Shane Lee, a political scientist at Chang Jung 
Christian University in Taiwan.

   China has used military flybys, aircraft carrier movements and diplomatic 
pressure as warnings to Taiwan since President Tsai Ing-wen took office there 
in 2016. Tsai's party embraces greater Taiwanese independence from China, 
resulting in a strong backlash from China. Beijing has cut all formal ties with 
Tsai's government, blockaded the island's participation in international forums 
and persuaded five countries to cut diplomatic ties with it.

   Washington switched its official recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979. 
But Taiwan still counts the United States as its staunchest informal ally, 
particularly as a source of advanced weapons systems. Last year Trump signed a 
bill encouraging more high-level exchanges between the two governments, 
inflaming China.

   In another sign of stronger U.S.-Taiwan ties, Tsai is expected to stop over 
in U.S. territory once or twice during a trip starting Thursday to visit 
diplomatic allies in the South Pacific. China has protested to the United 
States against her previous stopovers.


(KA)

 
 
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