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China On Edge As US Seriously Considers Sending The Marines To Taiwan

REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter

The U.S. is reportedly considering sending the Marines to Taiwan to defend the de facto embassy, and Beijing is not pleased.

The Department of State has requested that a detachment of the Marines be deployed to Taiwan, CNN reported Friday, citing two U.S. officials. Negotiations are said to be ongoing between the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service and the Marine Corps. If the Marines are deployed to Taiwan to protect the diplomatic mission, it will be the first time in almost four decades this has happened.

There was talk of a possible Marine deployment in February 2017, but nothing came of it. (RELATED: Beijing Sends Another ‘One-China’ Warning To Trump As Marines May Be Headed To Taiwan)

“We do not discuss specific security matters concerning the protection of our facility or personnel,” the Department of State said in response to CNN’s inquiries. Beijing, however, responded with a warning to Washington.

“The ‘One China’ principle is the political foundation of U.S.-China relations. The United States should abide by its ‘One China’ promise and not engage in any official relations or military exchanges with Taiwan,” a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said Friday, adding, “The U.S. is clear on China’s position and knows that it should exercise caution on this issue to avoid affecting bilateral ties.”

The U.S. does not have normal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but it does maintain a de facto embassy — the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) — on the self-ruled island in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, the year the U.S. formally recognized Beijing as the capital of China. The Chinese government is seriously concerned that U.S. efforts to strengthen ties with Taiwan will embolden pro-independence forces in Taiwan, which Beijing considers a belligerent separatist territory.

AIT recently received a $250-million upgrade that signaled the “unofficial, Cold War-era relationship between this island and the United States is getting a major upgrade,” according to The New York Times. President Donald Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act in March, permitting high-level visits between the U.S. and Taiwan. He also approved the sale of submarine technology to Taiwan.

Furthermore, the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) suggests the U.S. should seriously “consider the advisability and feasibility of reestablishing port of call exchanges between the United States navy and the Taiwan navy.” In response to the possibility of port calls, a Chinese diplomat openly threatened war.

“The day that a U.S. Navy vessel arrives in Kaohsiung, is the day that our People’s Liberation Army unites Taiwan with military force,” Li Kexin, a minister at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said at an embassy event in December 2017, the month the president signed the NDAA. (RELATED: Chinese Diplomat: China Will Open Fire On Taiwan If A US Warship Ever Docks There)

Beijing has repeatedly protested U.S. dealings with Taiwan.

Long a sore spot in bilateral relations between Washington and Beijing, Taiwan took center stage as Trump prepared to enter the White House. Then President-elect Trump broke with tradition and received a phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Trump then questioned why the U.S. should accept Chinese demands on Taiwan given the poor state of bilateral trade relations.

Tensions later cooled, but now the two sides are locked in a heated trade spat. It now looks like Taiwan might soon be back in the limelight.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis held talks with senior Chinese officials, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, on Wednesday about key issues, such as Taiwan and Chinese militarization in the South China Sea.

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