WASHINGTON: Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe warned his US counterpart in a phone call Thursday (Aug 6) to avoid firing up bilateral tensions, a day after Washington angered Beijing by announcing it would send a senior official to visit Taiwan.
Wei told US Defense Secretary Mark Esper in a 90-minute phone call to "stop erroneous words and deeds" and "avoid taking dangerous moves that may escalate the situation," referring directly to Taiwan and the South China Sea, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
But Esper told Wei that China was undertaking destabilising activity, according to the Pentagon, showing no sign of backing down as the US rejects China's claims of sovereignty in both areas.
"The secretary called for greater PRC transparency on COVID, expressed concerns about PRC destabilising activity in the vicinity of Taiwan in the South China Sea and called on the PRC to honor international obligations," said Defense Department spokesman Jonathan Hoffman.
The call came as the United States steps up a broad diplomatic campaign against Beijing, accusing it of everything from massive human rights violations to attempting to colonise the South China Sea region, to using technology like popular app TikTok to harvest the personal information of hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
On Wednesday Beijing bristled in anger after Washington said it would send Health Secretary Alex Azar to Taiwan, where he will meet with President Tsai Ing-wen and other officials.
Azar will be the most senior US cabinet member to visit Taiwan since 1979, which, owing to China's territorial claim on the island, does not have official diplomatic relations with the United States despite their close alliance.
Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called for the visit to be cancelled.
"China firmly opposes official exchanges between the US and Taiwan," Wang said Wednesday.
"We urge the US to abide by the one-China principle … to avoid seriously endangering Sino-US relations, as well as peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait."
Beijing views Taiwan as its own territory – vowing to one day seize it – and bristles at any moves by other countries to recognise or communicate with Taipei.
Tsai, though, called the visit "another testament to the strong Taiwan-US partnership," a relationship underscored by extensive defense cooperation and US arms sales.
ESPER HOPES TO VISIT CHINA
The long call came as Esper says he hopes to visit China before year-end for talks on improving crisis communications, which are increasingly important as US naval forces regularly conduct operations near Taiwan and in the South China Sea, effectively challenging China's territorial claims.
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