The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Kelly Craft, will visit Taiwan next week for meetings with senior Taiwanese government leaders, the U.S. mission to the U.N. and Taipei said Thursday.
The announcement drew ire from China, which accused the U.S. of “playing with fire” through the diplomatic trip.
Ambassador Craft will visit the nation of Taiwan from January 13 to 15, the U.S. mission to the United Nations said in a statement on Thursday, according to Reuters.
“During her trip, the Ambassador will reinforce the U.S. government’s strong and ongoing support for Taiwan’s international space in accord with the U.S. one-China policy that is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the three U.S.-PRC joint communiques, and the Six Assurances to Taiwan,” the statement read.
Taiwan is a democratically-ruled state that China considers a breakaway territory. Beijing has vowed to retake control of the island, located off China’s southeastern coast, by force, if necessary.
Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing through the 1979 U.S.-People’s Republic of China (PRC) Joint Communique, which recognized the PRC as “the sole legal government of China, acknowledging the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.”
While the U.S. has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, it is the island’s strongest unofficial ally and arms supplier through the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, according to the U.S. State Department. The act committed Washington “to assist Taiwan in maintaining its defensive capability.”
China said on Thursday that it firmly opposed the visit of a high-ranking U.S. government official to Taiwan next week.
“We wish to remind the United States that whoever plays with fire will burn himself. The United States will pay a heavy price for its wrong action,” a spokesperson for China’s mission to the U.N. said on Thursday.
“China strongly urges the United States to stop its crazy provocation, stop creating new difficulties for China-U.S. relations and the two countries’ cooperation in the United Nations, and stop going further on the wrong path,” the spokesperson added.
“The Taiwan question is the internal affairs of China, which bears on China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and concerns China’s core interests … We demand the U.S. immediately stop all official exchanges and military contacts with Taiwan,” Tan Kefei, the spokesman for China’s Ministry of National Defense, said on Thursday.
The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.’s impending visit to Taiwan is considered highly symbolic, as Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations. The Taiwanese government has accused China of barring the sovereign island from entry into the international organization, where Beijing wields considerable power and influence.