Taiwan elections: US-China relations will be tested

WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington's relationship with Beijing faces its biggest test since the two countries' leaders met in November, as the United States seeks to maintain calm across the Taiwan Strait after Taiwan V. Others elected a new president this weekend.

At stake is the peace and stability of the 110-mile-wide (177-kilometer-wide) strip of waters between the Chinese mainland and the self-ruled island. Any armed conflict could pit Washington against Beijing and disrupt the global economy.

China fears a victory for the leading candidate in Saturday's election would be a step toward independence and has suggested Taiwan voters could choose between peace and war.

Officials and observers say Washington is prepared to work with both Taipei and Beijing to avoid miscalculations and an increase in tensions, regardless of which presidential candidate wins.

A senior White House official said the US would keep channels of communication open with China and remain in close contact with Taiwan to "reinforce both our support for Taiwan's democratic processes and our strong commitment to peace, stability and the status quo." To be." The official spoke to reporters Thursday on condition of anonymity to discuss the plans.

President Joe Biden plans send an informal delegation Former senior officials came to the island immediately after the elections. The US has no formal relations with Taiwan and sending an official delegation would anger Beijing, which considers the island Chinese territory.

Anticipating a further "period of high tension", the official said the US is preparing for different responses from Beijing depending on the election results, which could range from no response to military actions.

on Saturday, island of 23 million people Tsai will elect a new president to replace Ing-wen, who has served her two-term limit. The election has attracted immense attention as Beijing opposes the leading contenders. lai ching-teCandidate of the governing Democratic Progressive Party, known for his pro-independence teachings. This has led to concerns that Lai's victory could trigger a military response from the mainland.

near beijing vowed to unite with Taiwan, by force if necessary. Any military action could attract the United States, which provides military hardware and technology to Taiwan under a security agreement.

Washington, while not taking sides on Taiwan's sovereignty, opposes any unilateral change to the status quo by either party. It shows no official preference for any candidate.

Biden, when Meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping The importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait was emphasized in California in November. Xi pressed Biden to support China's peaceful reunification with the island, telling him that "the Taiwan question remains the most important and most sensitive issue in China-US relations."

No matter who wins Saturday's election, Washington will engage with the new Taiwanese government to focus on strengthening ties and deterring military aggression from Beijing, lawmakers and observers have said.

"The United States will exchange notes with Taiwan to maintain stability and ensure Taiwan's resilience going forward," said Bonnie Glaser, managing director of the Indo-Pacific program at the German Marshall Fund.

"Regardless of who wins, the American people will stand with the Taiwanese people and Taiwan's vibrant, beautiful democracy," Representative Raja Krishnamurthy of Illinois said Wednesday at a discussion hosted by POLITICO. “And this is on a bipartisan basis.” He is the ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the US and the Chinese Communist Party.

Republican Representative Andy Barr of Kentucky said in the same discussion that all political parties in the US and Taiwan believe in deterrence. "Whoever wins this election, we will work with them to rebuild and strengthen that resistance," Barr said.

Scott Kennedy, senior adviser and trustee chair in China trade and economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said overwhelming support among Taiwanese for maintaining the status quo means U.S. policy will largely remain on track, even if the election Whoever wins.

Kennedy said, "No one wants to provoke war, and the current situation is the minimum acceptable to almost everyone, whether in Taiwan, in mainland China or in the United States."

All of Taiwan's presidential candidates see a solid relationship with the United States as a strong deterrent against a hostile takeover of the island by Beijing, said Rory Daniels, managing director of the New York-based Asia Society Policy Institute.

If elected, Lai is not likely to rock the boat Observers say that's by taking tough steps toward state direction, as her party has proven prudent and pragmatic under Tsai.

"Tsai has cultivated a positive image in Washington," said John Dotson of the Global Taiwan Institute, a Washington-based think tank. "She turned out to be very liberal in office."

While Tsai has angered Beijing by refusing to recognize Taiwan as part of China, she has also refrained from moving toward declaring independence. Lai will be expected to follow in his footsteps. Washington will likely view Lai's presidency as a "third Tsai term," Dotson said.

But Lai's victory could trigger angry reactions from Beijing, including military exercises near the island. Experts say Beijing is likely to be restrained as it is keen to protect US-China relations, especially after the Biden-Xi meeting in November.

The challenge for Taipei and Washington will be to manage Beijing's concern that Taiwan "could move toward independence," said Daniels of the Asia Society Policy Institute.

Lai is far behind opposition Kuomintang party candidate Hou Yu-ih. Beijing is accused of cheating an impact campaign Hou, whose party views Taiwan as part of China, though not necessarily under Beijing's rule. Nevertheless, observers say that the Kuomintang's victory will not affect US policy, given that popular opinion on the island remains in favor of the status quo.

Should Hou be elected, Washington, which has a history of working with the Kuomintang, would be willing to engage with him to strengthen U.S.-Taiwan ties, and reduce any cross-Strait tensions that would come with his election. Such reduction may be permitted. The US will focus on other issues, said Brian Hart, a China Power Project fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

A warmer cross-Strait relationship could bring new complexities to US-China relations. “There has to be a lot more coordination,” Daniels said. But since Beijing will likely put pressure on the Kuomintang government to move toward reunification, Washington could help Hou manage that pressure, he said.

FILE - Taiwan's Nationalist Party presidential candidate Hou Yu-ih is welcomed by residents while campaigning in a neighborhood in Taipei, Taiwan, January 9, 2024.  Taiwan holds presidential and parliamentary elections on Saturday, which China has described as a choice between war and peace.  ,  Hou is a candidate from Taiwan's main opposition party, the Kuomintang, or KMT, whose government withdrew from the island after losing a civil war against the Chinese Communist Party in 1949.  (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

Taiwan's Nationalist Party presidential candidate Hou Yu-ih is welcomed by residents while campaigning in a neighborhood in Taipei, Taiwan, on January 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

FILE - Taiwan People's Party (TPP) presidential candidate Ko Wen-je speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at his campaign office in Jiangshan district of Hsinchu city, southwest of Taiwan, on January 4, 2024.  Ko represents small Taiwan.  People's Party, which he founded in 2019.  An outspoken surgeon-turned-politician, Ko advocates a middle path in relations with Beijing.  (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying, File)

Taiwan People's Party presidential candidate Ko Wen-je speaks during an interview with the AP in Taiwan's southwestern Hsinchu city on Jan. 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying, File)

Third candidate, ko wen-je This could be the biggest challenge the leader of the newly formed Taiwan People's Party faces if elected to Washington. His party has yet to test and build ties with Washington, but observers say Ko has expressed interest in working with the US

“The Biden administration has gone out of its way to have no priority,” Hart said. “Regardless of who wins, there is an opportunity. "The United States is not really trying to emphasize this."

"From the US perspective, we want Taiwan to invest in its defense at a high level, to deter Chinese aggression," Hart said.

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