Defence Secretary Mattis to hold talks in China as tensions over Taiwan loom

Defence Secretary Mattis to hold talks in China as tensions over Taiwan loom

Today’s talks are likely to focus on concerns over the status of Taiwan.

US Taiwan

Photo: Bloomberg

US Defence Secretary James Mattis will begin a trip to Asia today, stopping first in China to discuss growing tensions between the two superpowers over a range of issues.

Today’s talks are likely to focus on concerns over the status of Taiwan. The Trump administration’s policy toward the self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own has been to increase “exchanges” with the Taiwanese government. Last year, the administration approved a $1.4 billion arms sale. This year, President Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act, which encourages high-level visits between the two states.

While the administration has previously been less hawkish toward the Taiwan issue than other issues like Chinese trade, expect a possibly harder stance to come. While the Trump-Kim North Korea talks were dominating headlines, the US officially opened a new $250 million facility of the American Institute in Taiwan, America’s de facto embassy. This could potentially be a way of subtly signalling that as with the North Korea talks, Trump will be equally “tough” on China’s military build-up in the region in general.

Keep an eye on the administration’s rhetoric toward Taiwan, and especially how and if hawkishness toward North Korea—assuming denuclearisation falters—corresponds with a harder stance over Taiwan.

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