China warns against Taiwan joining UN, as Biden chides Beijing

UPDATES THROUGHOUT WITH BIDEN COMMENTS AT ASIAN SUMMIT

Xi Jinping
China's President Xi Jinping attends a meeting with Brazil's Vice President Hamilton Mourao at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 24, 2019. (Photo by FLORENCE LO / POOL / AFP)

China insisted Wednesday that Taiwan has no right to join the United Nations as Washington urged the island’s greater involvement in the world body, sparking tensions that could grow following US President Joe Biden’s latest criticism of Beijing.

Biden rebuked China at an online East Asia Summit, telling regional leaders including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang that the United States was “deeply concerned by China’s coercive and proactive actions… across the Taiwan Strait.”

Such actions “threaten regional peace and stability”, Biden told the closed-door session, according to a recording of his remarks obtained by AFP.

The comments were the latest flak that Washington has aimed at Beijing in a long-running standoff between the two world powers.

In a statement marking 50 years since the UN General Assembly voted to seat Beijing and boot out Taipei, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday he regretted that Taiwan had been increasingly excluded on the world stage.

“Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the UN system is not a political issue, but a pragmatic one,” Blinken said.

“That is why we encourage all UN member states to join us in supporting Taiwan’s robust, meaningful participation throughout the UN system and in the international community.”

China considers Taiwan — where nationalist forces fled in 1949 after losing a civil war to the communists — to be a province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

It responded to Blinken’s statement with strident, albeit familiar, statements emphasising its position that Taiwan’s government had no place on the global diplomatic stage.

“Taiwan has no right to join the United Nations,” Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office in Beijing, told reporters.

“The United Nations is an international governmental organisation composed of sovereign states… Taiwan is a part of China.”

The United States has long called for Taipei’s inclusion in UN activities.

Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu thanked Washington for its support.

“We’ll continue to fight for our rights in international organisations,” he told reporters in Prague during an official tour, adding the situation was “growing more dangerous” as China keeps sending troops into the Taiwan Strait.

“We are determined to defend ourselves,” Wu said.

Defence of Taiwan

The latest statements add to an escalation of diplomatic rhetoric and military posturing over Taiwan.

China is regularly setting records with its numerous warplane flights near the island.

Biden last week told a televised forum that the United States was ready to defend Taiwan from any Chinese invasion.

Those comments were quickly walked back by the White House amid warnings from Beijing, continuing a strategy of ambiguity on whether it would intervene militarily if China attacked.

Biden’s latest contentious posture was notable in that his China criticism was in a non-public forum with leaders in Asia, including those from countries seeking to forge a path between the two powers.

The United States switched diplomatic recognition in 1979 to Beijing.

But Congress at the same time approved the Taiwan Relations Act that obligated the supply of weapons to the island for its self-defence.

Blinken on Tuesday reiterated that the United States still recognised only Beijing.

But he emphasised the democratic credentials of the island of 23 million people.

“Taiwan has become a democratic success story,” Blinken said. “We are among the many UN member states who view Taiwan as a valued partner and trusted friend.”

Blinken pointed to Taiwan’s exclusion from meetings associated with the International Civil Aviation Organization and the World Health Organization.

He noted that Taiwan was hailed for its “world-class” response to Covid-19 — which largely spared the island after early intervention — and that tens of millions of passengers go through Taiwanese airports each year.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen welcomed Blinken’s remarks.

“Grateful for #US support for expanding #Taiwan’s international participation,” she said on Twitter.

“We stand ready to work with all like-minded partners to contribute our expertise in international organizations, mechanisms & events.”

© Agence France-Presse