China softens Taiwan rhetoric as U.S. and Canadian warships sail through strait

BEIJING — China is willing to do its best to achieve peaceful “unification” with Taiwan, a Chinese government spokesman said on Wednesday, after weeks of military exercises and drills by Beijing near the autonomous island.

The comments came after U.S. and Canadian warships made their second joint passage through the Taiwan Strait in less than a year.

Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said at a news conference in Beijing ahead of next month’s five-yearly Communist Party National Congress that China is willing to do its best to achieve peaceful “unification” with the island nation’s democracy. , which Beijing calls territory.

China has proposed a “one country, two systems” model for Taiwan, similar to the model in which Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Ma said Taiwan could have a “social system different from that of the mainland” to ensure respect for its way of life, including religious freedom, but this was “on the premise of ensuring national sovereignty, security and development interests”.

Opinion polls show that all mainstream political parties in Taiwan have rejected the proposal, and there is little public support, especially after protests after Beijing imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in 2020.

China has also never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, passing a law in 2005 that would provide a legal basis for the country to take military action against Taiwan if it separates or appears imminent.

Taiwan’s government says its claim to sovereignty is invalid because the island has never been ruled by the People’s Republic of China.

Since U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei early last month, China has been conducting exercises near Taiwan, including firing missiles into waters near the island.

A U.S. Navy warship and a Canadian frigate routinely passed through the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday, the two militaries said. This is the second transit by a U.S. Navy ship in a month and the second joint U.S.-Canada transit since October 2021.

“Collaborations like this are at the heart of our approach to building a secure and prosperous region,” the Navy said in a statement.

It added that the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer Higgins and the Royal Canadian Navy’s Halifax-class frigate Vancouver passed through a corridor in the strait that extends beyond the territorial waters of any coastal state.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomes this.

“This sea-crossing operation is a concrete manifestation of democratic allies’ firm opposition to China’s expansionary attempts,” it said.

The People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command said its forces monitored the ships and “warned them.”

“The theater forces are always on high alert, resolutely responding to all threats and provocations, and resolutely defending national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it said in a statement, responding in customary language.

The narrow Taiwan Strait has been a frequent source of military tension since the defeated government of the Republic of China fled to Taiwan in 1949 after a failed civil war with the Communist Party that founded the People’s Republic of China.

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