(Tribune News Service) — The U.S. is sending its top China defense official to Taiwan in the coming days, according to the Financial Times — though it’s unclear how Beijing will respond given the softer tone it has adopted in its diplomacy with the U.S. and allies recently.
The deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, Michael Chase, will make the trip “in the coming days,” the newspaper reported, citing four people familiar with the situation.
China appears to have recalibrated its Taiwan strategy in the run-up to a presidential election next year. Officials from Shanghai plan to visit soon, pending approval from the government in Taipei, in what would be the first such visit since before the pandemic started.
Beijing also pledged to resume imports of Taiwanese foods after blocking shipments in December.
China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory, vehemently opposes official visits to Taipei by governments it has diplomatic ties with, often sending warplanes around the democratically run island in a show of displeasure.
Nancy Pelosi’s visit in August, the first by a sitting house speaker in 25 years, prompted an unprecedented show of force by the People’s Liberation Army, which fired missiles over Taiwan. In 2020, then-Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar led a delegation that was the highest-level visit by a U.S. cabinet official since Washington cut ties with Taipei more than 40 years ago.
Yet, it offered a muted response when the most recent senior Pentagon official, ex-deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia Heino Klinck, visited Taiwan in 2019.
Despite recent efforts to improve dialogue, ties between Washington and Beijing have worsened after the U.S. shot down a balloon it said China was using for spying. China says the aircraft was a civilian device that was collecting weather data when it was blown off course.
On Thursday, China imposed fines and sanctions against Lockheed Martin Corp. and a subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies Corp. for selling weapons to Taiwan.
The move is largely symbolic and came after the U.S. sanctioned six Chinese firms because it said they were linked to a military-backed global balloon espionage program.
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