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US-China tensions surge as Beijing hits out at historic diplomatic visit to Taiwan

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The diplomat’s official visit marks the first time an American ambassador has set foot on the island in 42 years after the US severed ties with the democratically-ruled state in 1979. John Hennessey-Niland, the US ambassador to Palau, visited the island on March 29 with the Palauan president Surangel Whipps as part of a five-day trip to promote security and peaceful operations in the Indo-Pacific.

The diplomatic return to the island combined with increased US involvement with the sovereign nation has created renewed tension with Beijing.

Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry said: “I want to stress that the one China principle is a universally recognised norm for international relations and a common consensus recognised, accepted and practiced by the vast majority of countries in the world.

“One China principle is the political foundation of China-US relations.

“China firmly opposes any form of official interactions between the US and Taiwan. This position is consistent and clear.”

He also urged Washington “to fully recognise that the Taiwan question is highly sensitive, and that it should abide by the one China principle and the three China-US joint communiques.”

This refers to a joint agreement between Beijing and Washington that acknowledges the Chinese position on Taiwan.

The delegation of ambassadors was welcomed to the island by Taiwan’s foreign ministry, which confirmed the official visit in a tweet.

The tweet read: “What a triumvirate! Minister Wu, President Whipps & Ambassador Hennessey-Niland are as one when it comes to trilateral cooperation. #Taiwan, #Palau & the #US are forces for good working together in promoting peace, security & prosperity in the #IndoPacific & around the world.”

Chinese military operations in the region usually see daily incursions into Taiwanese airspace.

Taipei fears that China will use military force to annex Taiwan, in a bid to return the democratically-ruled island to its territory.

The US has steadily increased its diplomatic relations with Taipei in recent years despite repeated warnings from Beijing.

On March 16, Taiwan’s defence minister, Chiu Kuo-cheng confirmed that Taiwan had completed the first arms sales under the Biden Administration in which submarine parts and equipment were sold.

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Mr Zhao added: “It [the US] must stop any official interaction with Taiwan, refrain from sending any wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces, stop any attempt to cross the bottom line, and properly handle Taiwan-related issues with prudence, lest it should damage China-US relations as well as peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

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