US and Chinese foreign ministers meet as tensions rise over Taiwan

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Senior U.S. and Chinese diplomats kicked off a meeting on Friday amid high tension following U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan and promise statement by US President Joe Biden to defend the island claimed by China.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi shook hands in New York during the United Nations General Assembly, but did not respond to media questions when they met. They sat down to talk.

The State Department had previously said the meeting was part of Washington’s ongoing efforts to “keep lines of communication open and manage competition responsibly.”

The meeting comes after Biden said US forces would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, prompting an angry response from Beijing, which said it sent the wrong signal to those seeking an independent Taiwan.

Biden’s statement is the latest instance in which he appears to go beyond the long-standing US policy of “strategic ambiguity,” which makes it unclear whether Washington would respond militarily to an attack on Taiwan.

His comments were also the most explicit to date on the commitment of US troops to defend the island, although the White House insisted that its policy on Taiwan had not changed.

In a phone conversation with Biden in July, Chinese leader Xi Jinping warned about Taiwan, saying “those who play with fire will perish by it.”

Following Pelosi’s solidarity visit to Taipei early last month, China deployed dozens of planes and fired real missiles near the island.

In a speech delivered Thursday at the Asia Society think tank in New York, Wang said the Taiwan issue was becoming the biggest risk in China-US relations.

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“If mishandled, it is very likely to devastate our bilateral ties,” Wang said, according to a transcript from the Chinese Embassy in Washington.

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