China says it has filed “stern representations” with the United States over a defense bill newly signed by President Barack Obama that proposes military exchanges between the US and Taiwan.
Obama on Friday signed into law the annual defense bill for 2017, which for the first time also advises the Pentagon to "conduct a program of senior military exchanges” with Taiwan.
China, which considers Taiwan as a breakaway province, expressed its strong opposition over the issue, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement late Sunday. It said the section in the defense policy bill referring to Taiwan was an instance of interference in China’s internal affairs that could not be accepted by Beijing.
"We urge the US side to abide by its promises made to China on the Taiwan issue, stop US-Taiwan military contacts and arms sales to Taiwan, to avoid damaging Sino-US ties and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” read the statement.
Under the "One China” policy adopted in 1979, Washington has been recognizing Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan and maintaining only unofficial ties with island. The US, however, remains Taiwan’s political ally and its only arms supplier.
More trouble down the road?
China had formerly warned the US against the Taiwan content of the bill, saying Beijing retained the right to "take further action” in response to it.
But the current US administration will be in office for less than a month, and the defense budget bill and its proposal for more military ties with Taiwan are more likely to take practical effect under an incoming administration, which has already proven to be even more adversarial to China.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry filed a similar diplomatic protest with the US earlier this month over a phone call between President-elect Donald Trump and President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan. Trump’s 10-minute telephone call with Tsai was the first by a US president-elect or president in 37 years.
Back then, Beijing urged the careful handling of the Taiwan issue to avoid any unnecessary disturbances in ties.
After the original phone conversation with the Taiwanese leader, Trump caused even more controversy when he said that he did not feel "bound by a ‘One China’ policy” unless China gave concessions to the US in trade and other areas.
The US president-elect has also named an economist known for his hard line against China to head a key White House trade post.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has said Beijing is paying close attention to any changes in US policy under Trump.