US urges China to not interfere in Taiwan elections

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The United States, in a clear signal to China, opposes any outside interference or influence in Taiwan's upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, a senior Biden administration official said on Wednesday.

The January 13 Taiwan elections come at a delicate time in US-Chinese relations, with President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping having just re-established military-to-military ties when they met in California last November.

The official, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, said that Washington does not take sides in the elections and does not have a favourite or preferred candidate.

"We oppose any outside interference or influence in Taiwan's elections," the official said. "Regardless of whom is elected, our policy toward Taiwan will remain the same and our strong unofficial relationship will also continue.”

The United States is Taiwan's most important international backer and arms supplier despite the lack of formal diplomatic ties with the island.

The elections are taking place against a backdrop of a ramped-up war of words between Taiwan and China, which views the island as its own territory despite the strong objections of the Taiwanese government. Washington wants to maintain the self-ruled island's status quo.

The launch of a Chinese satellite that flew over Taiwan, prompting an erroneous air raid alert, sparked a political storm on the island on Wednesday about China's motives only days before the presidential elections.

"I will note that the election is part of a normal, routine, democratic process. Beijing will be the provocateur should it choose to respond with additional military pressure or coercion," the Biden administration official said.

The official warned that disruption to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait “would seriously damage the global economy and the spillover would affect all economies around the world.”

The United States plans to send an unofficial delegation to Taiwan in the aftermath of the elections to hold direct communications. The official said some former high-ranking American officials were likely to be included.

The official added that sending the delegation was “well within precedent and is of course consistent with our one China policy.”

“The United States has full confidence in Taiwan's democratic processes, and there is strong bipartisan support for free and fair elections. Taiwan is a model for democracy, not only in the region, but also globally," the official said.

A top White House official, Jon Finer, met on Wednesday with a senior Chinese official and the two discussed tensions over Taiwan and the South China Sea, the White House said.

Finer, who is deputy national security adviser, met Liu Jianchao, head of the International Liaison Department of China's Communist Party, as part of efforts to maintain open lines of communications as directed by Biden and Xi in their California summit.

The meeting took place in Washington and the two officials had "candid and constructive discussions." They discussed a host of global hotspots, including the Middle East and Russia's war against Ukraine.

"Mr. Finer stressed the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the South China Sea," the White House said.

They reaffirmed support for continued high-level diplomacy and interactions between the United States and China, the White House said.

In separate talks, senior US and Chinese officials held a virtual meeting on Wednesday and discussed cooperating on law enforcement issues including the illicit flow of synthetic drugs such as fentanyl, the U.S. Department Of Homeland Security said.

US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Chinese Minister of Public Security Wang Xiaohong participated in the meeting, along with other senior officials, the department said in a statement.

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