Liz Truss summons Chinese ambassador over aggression towards Taiwan

Show caption Liz Truss urged China to resolve any differences by peaceful means. Photograph: Ian Forsyth/PA Liz Truss Liz Truss summons Chinese ambassador over aggression towards Taiwan Beijing blames its actions on US House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan Vincent Ni Wed 10 Aug 2022 16.29 BST Share on Facebook

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Taiwan has become the latest focal point in the fraught relationship between London and Beijing, with the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, summoning China’s ambassador to explain his government’s recent actions over the self-ruled democracy.

“I instructed officials to summon the Chinese ambassador to explain his country’s actions. We have seen increasingly aggressive behaviour and rhetoric from Beijing in recent months, which threaten peace and stability in the region,” Truss said in a statement.

The foreign secretary said the UK and partners have condemned “in the strongest terms China’s escalation in the region around Taiwan, as seen through our recent G7 statement”. She also urged Beijing to resolve any differences “by peaceful means”.

After days of massive military drills, which began on 4 August, China on Wednesday announced an end to its operations surrounding Taiwan but said further “training and war preparation” would continue.

Zheng Zeguang, China’s ambassador to the UK, said his government’s actions were provoked by the US “in collusion with the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces”, according to a Chinese report published after his meeting with Sir Tim Barrow, second permanent under-secretary at the Foreign Office.

Zheng, in the meeting, complained about the UK’s “wrong remarks and deeds on the question of Taiwan”, and said the US had been “playing the ‘Taiwan card’ to contain China” by activities such as arms sales and stepping up its official exchanges with Taiwan.

Since the US House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan last week, state-owned Chinese media have been pumping out materials that discredit the 82-year-old Democrat, accusing her of touching China’s “red lines”. China has also imposed sanctions on Pelosi and halted some of the key collaborations with the US.

China’s ruling communist party has long claimed Taiwan’s sovereignty. Beijing insists its “one-China principle” would bar most incumbent foreign government officials from setting foot on the island. Zheng last week also warned senior British parliamentarians against visiting Taiwan.

On Wednesday, China issued a white paper reiterating Beijing’s policy on Taiwan. “We will work with the greatest sincerity and exert our utmost efforts to achieve peaceful reunification,” the official English-language version of the document said. “But we will not renounce the use of force, and we reserve the option of taking all necessary measures.”

Bilateral relations between the UK and China have been in freefall in recent years. London and Beijing have imposed mutual sanctions over China’s treatment of its Uyghur population. As a result, Zheng, the top Chinese official in the UK, has also been barred from entering parliament since last September.

In a recent press conference, Zheng urged the UK to be pragmatic about the bilateral relationship. But he also said China will “work with whoever becomes the new PM for the development of the China-UK relationship”.

Truss, a frontrunner in the Conservative leadership race, has had a long track record in taking a tough stance on China. In May, she vowed to “hold China to account” for its policy in Xinjiang. She has also made analogy with Europe’s gas dependence on Russia. “We cannot allow that to happen with China and freedom is a price worth paying,” Truss said in a recent TV debate.