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China doubles down on Taiwan ‘interference’

Official repeats commitment to reunify with island

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Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi acknowledges the audience applause after addressing the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022 at U.N. headquarters.
Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi acknowledges the audience applause after addressing the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022 at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) Photo Gallery

UNITED NATIONS — China underscored its commitment Saturday to its claim on Taiwan, telling assembled world leaders that anyone who gets in the way of its determination to reunify with the self-governing island would be “crushed by the wheels of history.”

The language was forceful but, for Chinese leadership, well within the realm of normal.

“Only when China is fully reunified can there be true peace across the Taiwan Strait,” Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, said at the U.N. General Assembly. He said Beijing would “take the most forceful steps to oppose external interference.”

China regularly and vehemently defends its claim to Taiwan, which separated from the mainland after a 1949 civil war and now functions with its own government. A visit last month by the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, markedly ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Beijing.

The language, while pointed, reflected China’s typical intensity about the island; its claim seldom goes unmentioned in major international speeches. Taiwan is a core issue of China policy, and Wang’s appearance at the leaders’ meeting — instead of his boss, Chinese leader Xi Jinping — was a signal that the speech was not necessarily a significant one.

“The PRC government is the sole government representing all of China,” Wang said, referring to China’s formal name, the People’s Republic of China. “The one-China principle has become a basic norm in international relations.”

He added: “Any move to obstruct China’s reunification is bound to be crushed by the wheels of history.”

China exercises regular pressure worldwide on any entity — country, corporation, mapmaker — that even implies Taiwan might be a separate nation. At the Olympics, for example, Taiwan must compete as “Chinese Taipei.” The mainland government’s muscle has isolated the island’s government, though a few U.N. members continue to have diplomatic relations with Taipei rather than Beijing.

On Saturday at the U.N. meeting, just a few speakers before Wang, the prime minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, spoke forcefully about allowing Taiwan to raise its profile in international organizations, including the World Health Organization.

“How can we stand askance, in relative silence and contented inaction, in disregard of Taiwan’s legitimate right to exist in accord with the wishes and will of the Taiwanese people?” he asked.

Wang’s appearance at the 2022 in-person edition of the U.N. General Assembly came after two years of remote, pandemic-era speeches by China’s top leader. Xi did not attend this year’s event, which Russian President Vladimir Putin also skipped. U.S. President Joe Biden spoke on Wednesday.

The United States and China have an uneasy diplomacy and are at odds over many core issues.

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