US halts high-profile Taiwan visit after Beijing threatens military actions: sources

Published (HKT): 2021.03.15 17:18

The Journalist, a political magazine in Taiwan, revealed Beijing’s threats that led to the cancellation of a top U.S. envoy’s trip to Taiwan.

Kelly Craft, the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations under the Trump administration, cancelled the planned visit in January after China warned the U.S. against “playing with fire.”

A source familiar with the cross-Strait military situation told The Journalist that the visit, which was initially scheduled a week before the presidential transition, had infuriated high-level officials in Beijing.

“Beijing waited for more than two months for the Biden administration to assume office. But they could not tolerate it anymore, as Craft’s title as the U.S. envoy to the U.N. has an implication on diplomatic affairs and sovereignty,” said the source.

The report revealed that after strong protest to America through diplomatic channels failed to sway the plan, Beijing responded with threats with military actions. The People’s Liberation Army notified the U.S. Department of Defense that it would not allow Craft’s visit to damage China’s national interests.

The army’s fighter jets would follow the U.S. charter flight into Taiwan’s airspace to assert its jurisdiction over the self-ruled island, the Chinese military warned, adding it would not rule out opening fire if it faced obstruction from the Taiwanese military.

According to sources, the U.S. Department of Defense, which was occupied with preparing for the presidential transition, did not expect Beijing’s aggressive response. To ensure Craft’s safe landing in Taipei, the U.S. had to deploy F-15 tactical fighter jets, but it came at the risk of military crossfire. A conflict between Taiwanese and Chinese military in the airspace would also be a political disaster for America, the article added.

After evaluating the risks, the U.S. military suggested the State Department cancel the trip. The then State Secretary Mike Pompeo relented and blamed the cancellation on the presidential transition.

The diplomatic visit came as Taiwan-U.S. relations made huge strides under the Trump administration. Several high-level officials visited the democratic island, while Pompeo lifted restrictions on contacts between American officials and their Taiwanese counterparts right before his departure.

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