US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has brought his country’s war of words with China over Taiwan’s sovereignty to South Africa, where he is on tour.
The US view on Taiwan is that it is an independent country, while China insists the island is an errant province, which one day will be reunited with the mainland.
Blinken ruffled feathers with comments on a South African television station asserting that China was “overreacting” following the recent controversial visit to Taiwan by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The Chinese Embassy in South Africa on Monday said Pelosi’s “visit to and activities in Taiwan, in whatever form and for whatever reason, were a serious violation of the US government’s commitment to the one-China policy”.
It was also a major political provocation to upgrade US official exchanges and substantive relations with Taiwan, the embassy said.
Blinken is in South Africa as part of a bid to strengthen ties and launch the US Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa. He will also visit countries surrounding South Africa.
On Monday Blinken said it was “terrific to meet with” his South African counterpart International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor “to strengthen the enduring ties between our countries and advance shared priorities through the US-South Africa Strategic Dialogue”.
Before he travelled to South Africa Blinken said China’s response to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was “irresponsible”.
Since the visit, China has carried out military exercises around Taiwan involving missile strikes, warplanes and ship movements crossing the midline of the Taiwan Strait that divides the island from the mainland.
His “over reaction” comment about Pelosi’s Taiwan visit while in South Africa further irked China, which last week suspended cooperation with the US in judicial affairs, climate change, the repatriation of irregular migrants, criminal legal assistance, combating transnational crimes, and talks on combating climate change.
The Chinese embassy in South Africa said in a statement: “The false accusation of ‘overreaction of the Chinese side’ is nothing but a despicable way of distorting facts and shifting blames.
“Pelosi’s illegitimate visit to Taiwan has grossly infringed on China’s sovereignty, interfered in China’s internal affairs, violated the commitments made by the US side, and jeopardised peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits.”
The embassy added: “If China does not firmly oppose the irresponsible and provocative actions by the US, the purposes of the UN Charter, such as the respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and other basic norms governing international relations will be reduced to nothing but words on paper”.