Sino-US relations appear set to further worsen following a statement by US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo that congratulates Tsai Ing-wen on the start of her second term as “Taiwan’s President”, following her election on 11 January.
The announcement prompted a strong response from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), which said that that the US remarks were a serious violation of the ‘One-China Principle’ and an act of interference in China’s internal affairs.
The MFA was not the only one to react to the statement, China’s Ministry of National Defence (MND) also expressed its concern by saying that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has “the strong will, full confidence, and sufficient capability to thwart any form of external interference and any separatist attempts for ‘Taiwan independence’”.
Tsai’s inauguration coincides with US lobbying efforts to support Taiwan to secure an observer status at the World Health Organization (WHO)’s 73rd World Health Assembly.
US President Donald Trump has also recently signed into law an act that requires increased Washington support for Taiwan internationally, prompting a denunciation by Bejing, which said it would strike back if the law was implemented.
Bejing claims Taiwan as its own territory and regularly calls Taiwan as the most sensitive issue in its ties with the US.
Though analysts consider likely that Tsai will maintain her track record of capably preserving the cross-strait status quo, Sino-US competition may emerge as a potential game-changer in the unresolved Taiwan Strait crisis, especially considering that the US presidential elections are drawing closer.