The United States says it is committed to assisting Chinese Taipei to defend itself in the face of a potential Chinese attack, in a move which China views a blatant instance of interference in its internal affairs.
Sandra Oudkirk, the newly-appointed chairman of the American Institute in Taipei (AIT), which operates as Washington's de facto embassy on the self-ruled island, made the remarks at a news conference on Friday, when asked if the United States would come to Taipei’s defense if it were attacked by China.
"The United States has a commitment to help” Taipei “provide for its self-defense," Oudkirk said, describing the relations between the two sides as "rock-solid".
She also stressed that Washington’s policy towards Taipei has been clear and remains unchanged, citing several US laws governing its relations with the self-governed island.
Washington is required by law to provide Taipei with the means to defend itself but it has long followed a policy of "strategic ambiguity" on whether it would intervene militarily to protect the self-ruled island if a war broke out with China.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has already said the United States will continue to help Chinese Taipei with resources and capabilities, including potent military hardware.
China has sovereignty over Chinese Taipei, and under the "One China" policy, almost all world countries recognize that sovereignty. The US, too, recognizes Chinese sovereignty over the island but has long courted Taipei in an attempt to unnerve Beijing.
The United States, which backs Taipei's secessionist president, also continues to sell weapons to the island in defiance of Beijing and in violation of its own official policy.
China has repeatedly called on the US to strictly abide by the "One China" principle when handling issues related to Taipei, warning that Beijing has no room for compromise on issues involving its core interests, including its territorial integrity.
It has also cautioned the US against sending wrong signals in any form to the so-called “independence” forces of Taipei to avoid seriously damaging Sino-US relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
Tensions between the US and China escalated recently over Chinese military flights, as well as increased US military support for Taipei.
On Thursday, Taipei's president Tsai Ing-wen confirmed that a small number of American forces are stationed in the self-ruled island to purportedly train soldiers.
In response to the official declaration, Beijing denounced any military connection between Washington and Taipei.
Separately on Thursday, China strongly criticized US efforts to increase Taipei's role at the United Nations, saying the self-ruled island has "no right" to join the world body.
This came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged all UN member states to join Washington in supporting Taipei's "meaningful" participation in the UN system.
Relations between the US and China have grown tense in recent years, with the world's two largest economies clashing over a range of issues, including trade, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, military activities in the South China Sea, and the origins of the new coronavirus.