May 27, 2019 / 3:29 AM / 3 months ago

China bridles at rare meeting between Taiwan and U.S. security officials

TAIPEI (Reuters) - China responded angrily on Monday as Taiwan confirmed the first meeting in more than four decades between senior U.S. and Taiwanese security officials.

Flags of Taiwan and U.S. are placed for a meeting between U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce speaks and with Su Chia-chyuan, President of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan March 27, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Taiwan’s national security chief David Lee met White House national security adviser John Bolton earlier this month, the island’s foreign affairs ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

The official Central News Agency said the meeting was the first since the island and the United States ended formal diplomatic ties in 1979.

China considers Taiwan a wayward province, to be reclaimed by force if necessary, and the meeting angered Beijing which is already locked in a bitter trade war with Washington.

“China is extremely dissatisfied and resolutely opposed to this,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a daily news briefing, adding China was against any form of official exchanges between the United States and Taiwan.

The diplomatic ties between Beijing and Washington have become increasingly strained in recent weeks due to an escalating trade war, U.S. support for Taiwan and China’s muscular military posture in the South China Sea, where the United States also conducts freedom-of-navigation patrols.

The rare meeting will be viewed by Taiwan as a sign of support from the Trump administration. Tensions have also risen between Taipei and Beijing, which considers the democratically ruled island part of “one China”.

The meeting took place during Lee’s May 13-21 visit to the United States, Taiwan’s brief statement said.

“During the trip, together with U.S. government officials, Secretary-General Lee met with representatives from our diplomatic allies, reiterating support and commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the statement said.

Taiwan’s foreign affairs ministry and the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan declined to comment on Monday.

Beijing regularly calls Taiwan the most sensitive and important issue in ties with the United States, which has no formal ties with Taiwan but is the island’s main source of arms.

The Unites States has in recent months increased the frequency of patrols through the strategic Taiwan Strait despite opposition from China.

China has been ramping up military and diplomatic pressure to assert its sovereignty over the island, conducting drills near Taiwan and snatching its few remaining diplomatic allies.

Earlier in May, the U.S. House of Representatives backed legislation supporting Taiwan as members of the U.S. Congress pushed for a sharper approach to relations with Beijing.

The Pentagon says Washington has sold Taipei more than $15 billion in arms since 2010.

Reporting By Yimou Lee; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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