China on Monday asked the United Kingdom to respect its sovereignty after British Trade Policy Minister Greg Hands held talks with Taiwanese officials, reported the Associated Press.
China claims Taiwan as its own territory and has threatened to annex the island-nation by force. Beijing strongly objects to any official interactions between Taipei and foreign governments as it sees such dialogue as an acknowledgement of Taiwan’s sovereignty.
“The UK should earnestly respect China’s sovereignty, uphold the one-China principle, stop any forms of official contacts with Taiwan and stop sending wrong signals to Taiwan independence separatist forces,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a daily briefing on Monday, according to AP.
Hands’ visit to Taipei came against the backdrop of new British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak taking a more stern stance against China. In July, Sunak had described China as the “biggest long-term threat to Britain” while competing with former Prime Minister Liz Truss in the Conservative leadership race, reported The Guardian.
Besides meeting President Tsai Ing-wen during his two-day visit to Taipei, Hands will hold talks on Taiwanese officials on industries like financial technology, renewable energy and pharmaceuticals. The UK also noted that as a leading manufacturer of semiconductors – the chips used in electronic devices like mobile phones and electric vehicles – Taiwan is a key player in global supply chains.
This is crucial since Britain is soon going to make a decision on an investigation into a Chinese-led takeover of Newport Wafer Fab, which owns the country’s largest semiconductor plant, reported Bloomberg.
“Visiting Taiwan in person is a clear signal of the UK’s commitment to boosting UK-Taiwan trade ties. Like the UK, Taiwan is a champion of free and fair trade underpinned by a rules-based global trading system,” Hands’ office said in a statement.