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China threatens retaliation over US admiral’s reported trip to Taiwan

Rear Adm. Michael Studeman. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
December 02, 2020

China has warned it will retaliate in some form after reports that U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Michael Studeman, the U.S. Pacific Command’s top intelligence official, made an unannounced visit to Taiwan last week.

The Hill reported that on Monday, Nov. 23, China pledged a “legitimate and necessary response” to the alleged visit to Taiwan by Studeman. Asia Times reported Foreign Ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao said, “The Chinese side will, according to how the situation develops, make a legitimate and necessary response.”

According to The Hill, Zhao also said China “firmly” opposes any interactions between U.S. and Taiwanese officials. Zhao did not specify how China would respond to Rear Adm. Studeman’s alleged Taiwan visit.

The U.S. has not confirmed Rear Adm. Studeman’s alleged visit.

The Taiwanese publication United Daily News (UDN) photographed what they reported was a U.S. administrative plane, numbered 375, arriving at Taipei Songshan Airport on Sunday, Nov. 22. Asia Times reported publicly available flight data recorded a private plane flying into Songshan late Sunday afternoon from Hawaii, where Indo-Pacific Command is headquartered.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said it has had frequent interactions with U.S. officials and “we welcome the visit of the US official,” but said, “As this itinerary has not been made public, based on mutual trust between Taiwan and the United States, the Foreign Ministry has no further explanation or comment.”

While Taiwan has governed itself as its own democratic nation for decades, China maintains its claim of sovereignty over the island and has warned against the U.S. and Taiwan forming ties in the past. Since 1979, the U.S. has maintained the “One-China Policy” which recognizes China’s claims of sovereignty over Taiwan, though the U.S. has increasingly interacted with Taiwan in recent months.

In August, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar visited Taiwan, becoming the most senior U.S. official to visit the island nation in decades, according to The Hill. In September, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith Krach also visited Taiwan. As Krach visited, China flew warplanes over the island.

In October, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan prompted China to sanction the U.S. arms makers whose weapons systems were sent to Taiwan.

While the U.S. has interacted with Taiwan, the U.S. denied a recent report that U.S. Marines planned to train Taiwanese military personnel. Addressing the alleged training plans, Pentagon spokesman John Supple said the U.S. “remains committed to our One-China Policy.”

Eric Sayers, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told the U.S. Naval Institute’s USNI News, “[I]t’s my understanding that active-duty, two-star officers have traveled to Taiwan before. So there is a precedent. However, the goal on both sides has been to keep these military-to-military exchanges discrete so they can continue on a regularized basis.”