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Robert O’Brien, the US national security adviser, made the remarks on the same day China threatened a “legitimate and necessary response” to a US Navy admiral visiting Taiwan. It is the latest source of tension between the two superpowers on the issue of Taiwan after the island nation agreed a multi-billion dollar arms deal with the Trump administration.
Speaking on Monday during a visit to the capital of the Philippines, Manila, Mr O’Brien told reporters: “I can’t imagine anything that will cause a greater backlash against China from the entire world if they attempted to use military force to coerce Taiwan.
“The US is with her friends in Taipei. We will continue to be there.”
Zhao Lijian, China’s foreign ministry spokesman, said the nation “resolutely opposes” exchanges between US and Taiwan at a news briefing.
Reuters reported how Michael Studeman, a rear-admiral and director of intelligence of the United States Indo-Pacific Command, arrived in Taiwan on Sunday.
This has yet to be confirmed by the US or Taiwanese Governments.
Under China’s ‘one country, two systems’ protocol, any foreign power seeking an official trip to Taiwan must seek permission from Beijing.
Bilateral arrangements between Taipei and other Governments are viewed by China as a challenge to their claim over Taiwan.
Mr Zhao said: “The Chinese side will, according to how the situation develops, make a legitimate and necessary response.”
The US-Taiwan arms deal, viewed by Beijing as a threat to their sovereignty, includes a Boeing-made Harpoon Coastal Defence System, rocket artillery, sensors and missiles.
It provoked a furious response from Chinese president Xi Jinping who told troops at a military base to “put all [their] minds and energy on preparing for war”.
China sanctioned US defence companies Lockheed Martin, Boeing Defense, Space and Security and Raytheon in retaliation, while refusing to rule out targeting other “individuals and entities”.
The Trump administration approved the sale over more than $15billion in arms sales, with $7billion in weapons being sold in September.
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It also launched the Taiwan Travel Act in 2018 as a follow-up to the existing Taiwan Relations Act 1979, which allowed US officials to visit the country without restrictions and vice versa.
Local media reports in Taiwan said on Sunday items required to manufacture a submarine have also been approved by the US.
A visit from Keith Krach, senior US official figure for economic growth, energy and the environment, to Taiwan in September prompted an angry response from China.
The US Department of State said the purpose of Mr Krach’s visit was to attend a memorial service for the country’s former president Lee Teng-hui.
In August, US health secretary Alex Azar made a similar visit.
On both occasions, China sent warplanes close to the island,
Mr Zhao said last month the US arms sale will “seriously undermine China’s sovereignty and security interests”.
He added that “China firmly opposes and strongly condemns it”.
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