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U.S., Chinese foreign ministers to meet as Taiwan tensions rise

·2 min read

By Humeyra Pamuk

NEW YORK, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Senior diplomats from the United States and China will meet on Friday with tensions high after a visit to Taiwan by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and an explicit pledge by U.S. President Joe Biden to defend the Chinese-claimed island.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in New York on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly. The State Department said it was part of Washington's ongoing efforts to "maintain open lines of communication and manage competition responsibly."

The meeting comes days after Biden said U.S forces would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, drawing an angry response from China that said it sent the wrong signal to those seeking an independent Taiwan.

Biden's statement is the latest instance of his appearing to go beyond a long-standing U.S. policy of "strategic ambiguity" which does not make it clear whether Washington would respond militarily to an attack on Taiwan.

His comments were also the most explicit to date about committing U.S. troops to the defend the island, although the White House insisted its Taiwan policy had not changed.

In a phone call with Biden in July, China's leader Xi Jinping warned about Taiwan, saying "those who play with fire will perish by it."

After Pelosi's solidarity visit to Taipei early last month, China deployed scores of planes and fired live missiles near the island.

China sees democratically governed Taiwan as one of its provinces. Beijing has long-vowed to bring Taiwan under its control and has not ruled out the use of force to do so.

Taiwan's democratically-elected government strongly objects to China's sovereignty claims and says only the island's 23 million people can decide its future.

Earlier in the week, Wang met with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the architect of U.S. relations with communist China, and said a "peaceful reunification" with Taiwan was China's aspiration.

However, he said the possibility of a peaceful resolution was diminished by ever more "rampant" Taiwanese independence sentiment and he invoked a Chinese proverb: "It is better to lose a thousand soldiers than an inch of territory."

"This is the Chinese people's will and determination," he said according to China's Foreign Ministry. (Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, David Brunnstrom and Michael Martina; Editing by Mary Milliken and Sam Holmes)