Top officials from China and the US are due to hold talks in Switzerland amid heightened tensions over the Chinese army conducting a record number of air drills close to Taiwan, a self-ruled island which Beijing views as a breakaway province.
Tensions with China are at their worst in 40 years, Taiwan’s defence minister Chiu Kuo-cheng has said, warning of the risk of an accidental strike between the two.
Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political bureau of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), will meet with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in Zurich, Switzerland, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying announced on Wednesday.
Yang, also director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC, will meet with Sullivan “according to the consensus reached by Chinese and US heads-of-state on September 10 in their phone call and as agreed upon by China and the United States,” Hua said.
“They will exchange views on China-US relations and relevant issues,” Hua was quoted as saying by state-run Xinhua news agency.
They were expected to discuss among others the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) flying at least 150 warplanes into the Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) of Taiwan since the start of China”s National Day holiday on Friday, during both days and nights, official media reports here said.
The US Department of State Department voiced “concern” over the air exercises, saying the drills are provocative.
In response to the statement, Hua said Taiwan is part of China, and the US has no right to make irresponsible comments on the Taiwan question.
For its part, China has been criticising the US over the sale of arms to Taiwan under the Washington”s Taiwan Relations Act, which states that the US must help Taiwan defend itself.
China claims the estranged islands of Taiwan as part of it and President Xi Jinping has vowed to integrate it with the mainland.
“I’ve spoken with Xi about Taiwan. We agree … we’ll abide by the Taiwan agreement. We made it clear that I don”t think he should be doing anything other than abiding by the agreement,” US President Joe Biden said, referring to his recent phone talks with Xi.
Analysts suggest that despite the heightened tensions, relations between China and Taiwan have not deteriorated to levels last seen in 1996 when China tried to disrupt presidential elections with missile tests and the US dispatched aircraft carriers to the region to dissuade them.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Defence Minister Chiu said on Wednesday that China could be capable of mounting a “full-scale” invasion of Taiwan by 2025.
Citing China’s large-scale air drills, he said, “with regards to staging an attack on Taiwan, they currently have the ability. But [China] has to pay the price,” CNN reported.
By 2025, that price will be lower – and China will be able to mount a “full-scale” invasion, he said.
Taiwan considers itself a sovereign state. China, however, views Taiwan as a breakaway province that must be reunified with the mainland, even by force.