A senior British lawmaker says her delegation discussed military cooperation with Taiwan during a visit to the self-ruled island earlier this week that China denounced as “blatant interference”.
Britain, like many other Western countries, has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan but has increased its diplomatic and military support for the island in recent years amid growing tensions with Beijing.
Alicia Kearns, the head of the British parliament's foreign relations committee, spoke to reporters after meeting Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
“We talked about the joint cyber threats that we all face from different adversaries, we discussed disinformation, and of course, we discussed conventional military conflict,” she said.
“And we talked about how we as an international community work together to prevent, and therefore the importance of deterrence diplomacy. And, yes, defense cooperation was discussed as part of that because it should be part of a whole conversation that takes place.”
While the United States continues to be Taiwan's most important foreign source of military armaments, British companies have been involved in the development of a new fleet of Taiwanese-made submarines.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Monday that the "golden era" of relations with China was over as Beijing's systematic challenges to British interests and values were increasing every day.
The Chinese embassy in London, in a statement on Thursday, condemned the visit of the British delegation as "blatant interference" in China's internal affairs.
“In disregard of China’s firm opposition,” said an unnamed spokesperson for the embassy, “the relevant UK MPs went ahead with their visit to the Taiwan region of China.”
It said Taiwan is “an inalienable part of China’s territory, and the Taiwan question is purely China’s internal affair.”
“The one-China principle is a recognized basic norm of international relations and a universal consensus of the international community. It is also the political basis for the establishment and development of diplomatic relations between China and the UK,” the statement added.
In a meeting with Kearns and her accompanying delegation at the presidential office, Tsai thanked Britain for its support to Taiwan.
“We believe that democratic countries must stand more united than ever in the face of authoritarian expansion,” she said. “Hence, we place immense importance on fostering Taiwan-Britain relations.”
The United States routinely sends its warships and warplanes to the South China Sea, provoking Beijing.
On November 29, the Chinese military said it had chased away the USS Chancellorsville, a guided-missile cruiser after it "illegally intruded" into waters in the vicinity of the South China Sea's Spratly Islands.
The Spratly Islands, known as Nansha Islands in China, lie at the heart of the territorial dispute over the South China Sea.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently warned about the interference of NATO member states to create an explosive situation in the region and cited it as a reason for increased Russia's military cooperation with China.
He also said NATO is trying to drag India into what he called an anti-Russia and anti-China alliance at a time when the West is attempting to squeeze out Russian influence in the region.
NATO “brings devastation and suffering. I have already mentioned the aggression against Syria, the aggression against Libya, the destruction of the Libyan statehood,” Lavrov said, warning that the expanding alliance “deploys its forces and military infrastructure ever closer to” Russian borders.
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