China has threatened a “counterstrike” against a provocative move by the United States to remove decades-old restrictions on official contacts with Taiwan in a last-ditch effort to further challenge China’s sovereignty over the self-ruled island.
In a statement on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Washington is violating the terms of its diplomatic relations with Beijing.
“Any action that harms China's core interests will receive a resolute counterstrike from China," Zhao warned, urging US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to retract the decision or face "severe punishment,” he said.
Pompeo has said Washington would lift “complex internal restrictions” on contacts with Taipei by diplomats. He has also said the “self-imposed” bans had been taken “unilaterally” by Washington to “appease the Communist regime in Beijing.”
However, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman urged Pompeo to take back the decision or face “severe punishment.”
It has been a year of mounting US-Chinese friction on a host of issues, including human rights, trade, Hong Kong, and the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Beijing has sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan, and under the “One China” policy, almost all world countries recognize that sovereignty and are not allowed to have formal relations with Taiwan.
The US, too, recognizes Chinese sovereignty over the island but it has constantly sold weapons to the island for the past years, bypassing Beijing, and avidly backs its secessionist president Tsai Ing-wen.
Beijing says the US contacts with Taiwan and the weapon sales to the island are a violation of China’s sovereignty.
The government of Tsai has already welcomed the move by Washington, saying that it was grateful to Pompeo for “lifting restrictions unnecessarily limiting our engagements.”
The administration of outgoing US President Donald Trump has particularly stepped up military support for Taiwan in recent years through increased arms sales and is now pushing the sale of seven large packages of weapons to the island.