Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to correct an earlier version that traced the “one China” policy back to Beijing instead of Washington.
After a State Department fact sheet was changed to observe Taiwan’s “best interests,” U.S. officials have maintained that Washington upholds the “one China” policy and therefore does not support the island’s independence.
The fact sheet change, which apparently angered Beijing, removed an acknowledgment of “the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China,” as well as a statement saying the U.S. “does not support Taiwan independence.”
In a press briefing on Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the fact sheet had not been updated for years. “I think we care most about ensuring that our relationships around the world are reflected accurately in our fact sheets,” he said.
China, in response, slammed the change as “political manipulation of the Taiwan question.” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian stressed that the island is an “inalienable” part of China and that “the attempt to change the status quo across the Taiwan Strait will hurt the United States itself.”
On Wednesday, Price affirmed that the U.S. does not support Taiwan’s independence, pursuant to its “one China” policy made in 1979. Under the policy, Washington recognizes Beijing as the “sole legal government of China,” but it allows for unofficial ties with Taiwan, including assistance with self-defense.
“We do not support Taiwan independence, and we have repeatedly made this clear both in public and in private,” Price said in a press briefing.
“Though the United States does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan and does not support Taiwan independence, we do have, as you know, a robust unofficial relationship with Taiwan as well as an abiding interest in maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
Washington, however, maintains ambiguity on the extent of its military assistance to Taiwan. This policy supposedly deters Beijing from launching an assault and Taipei from seeking independence at the same time.
Still, the U.S. reiterates its “rock-solid” commitment to Taiwan’s defense. The fact sheet update also says it “continues to encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-strait differences consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people on Taiwan.”
“We will continue to stand with our partner Taiwan. Our commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid, including in the face of acts of potential intimidation,” Price said.
On Tuesday, the guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal made a “routine” Taiwan Strait transit “in accordance with international law.” This was the second U.S. mission in two weeks, drawing an angry response from Beijing.