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29 Jan, 2022 06:24

Ambassador warns of ‘tinderbox’ at risk of starting US-China war

Chinese diplomat says steps by US to encourage Taiwan’s independence would likely lead to ‘military conflict’
Ambassador warns of ‘tinderbox’ at risk of starting US-China war

China’s ambassador to the US has warned that Beijing and Washington are likely destined for war if the latter encourages Taiwan to seek independence, describing Taipei as the “biggest tinderbox” in the relationship between the countries.

“If the Taiwanese authorities, emboldened by the United States, keep going down the road for independence, it most likely will involve China and the United States, the two big countries, in a military conflict,” ambassador Qin Gang said in a radio interview with NPR that was broadcast on Friday.

The comments came in Qin’s first one-on-one interview with an American media outlet since he assumed his post in Washington last July. And as state-funded NPR noted, his warning was unusually blunt for Chinese officials, who typically speak of potential flashpoints in the US-China relationship in less direct terms. For instance, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi earlier this week told his US counterpart, Antony Blinken, that Washington must “stop playing with fire on the issue of Taiwan.”

“Let me emphasize this,” ambassador Qin told NPR. “The Taiwan issue is the biggest tinderbox between China and the United States.” He said China considers Taiwan its “sacred” territory, and Beijing reserves the option to reunify through force if the Taiwanese government formally declares independence.

Qin insisted that China’s government doesn’t wish to attack Taiwan. “People on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are Chinese, so we are compatriots. So the last thing we should do is to fight with compatriots, and we will do our utmost in the greatest sincerity to achieve a peaceful reunification.”

Washington’s official stance on the issue is that it remains committed to the “One China” policy, meaning it doesn’t recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation. But as a Pentagon official said in testimony to Congress last year, the US believes China has plans to take Taiwan by force and sees bolstering Taipei’s defenses as an “urgent task.”