White House prepares for Taiwan presidential elections and 'interval of higher pressure'

U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier than a gathering throughout the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ week in Woodside, California, Nov. 15, 2023.

Brendan Smialowski | Afp | Getty Images

The Biden administration doubled down on its help for Taiwan’s democratic course of forward of a presidential election on the island that may function a bellwether of mainland China’s creeping affect over Taiwan, which China claims as its territory.

A senior Chinese liaison to Taiwan warned just lately that Saturday’s election can be a selection between “peace and conflict.” Beijing has additionally cautioned Washington to not become involved.

The election outcomes can have ripple results on geopolitics and international commerce. Depending on the end result, they might additionally set off a rise in Chinese army exercise in and across the island.

The White House is getting ready for a number of completely different outcomes.

“Anytime we’re heading right into a interval of higher pressure, there are of course at all times contingency conversations within the U.S. authorities,” a senior administration official stated late Wednesday on a briefing with reporters.

“I do not wish to get into specifics on these, however of course, we now have to be ready and pondering by any eventuality … starting from no response to the higher finish,” the official stated.

The White House insists that the United States doesn’t endorse any of the highest three candidates. This doesn’t imply Washington is staying fully on the sidelines, nonetheless.

An “unofficial delegation” of Americans will journey to Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, instantly after the election to strengthen its partnership with the island “face-to-face,” the senior administration official stated. “It is not any secret that Beijing has a view on the end result of the election, and is making an attempt to form its course in numerous other ways.”

Lai Ching-te, the candidate for the incumbent Democratic Progressive Party, is considered as more likely to keep the established order in relations with China and with the U.S., making him Beijing’s least favourite selection.

Opposition candidate Hou Yu-ih has expressed openness to nearer relations with mainland China.

A 3rd candidate, retired surgeon Ko Wen-je, is a former mayor of Taipei who has positioned himself as a pragmatist and a reasonable.

Polls show the competition is shut however that Lai is the favourite.

Taiwan has reported myriad makes an attempt by the Chinese authorities to affect the election by way of disinformation campaigns, cyberattacks and financial coercion.

The cautiously defiant message from Washington on Taiwan follows two days of conferences Jan. 8-9 between the Pentagon and China’s defense ministry.

Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer additionally met along with his Chinese counterpart Wednesday to emphasise, amongst different points, the U.S. dedication to “peace and stability throughout the Taiwan Strait.”

These conferences construct on President Joe Biden’s November one-on-one with Chinese President Xi Jinping in San Francisco, which aimed to finish the bitter freeze that has characterised current U.S.-China relations.

At the November summit, Xi bluntly stated that he intends to reunify Taiwan with mainland China and won’t rule out army pressure to take action.

At the conferences earlier this week, China demanded that the United States “cease arming Taiwan and oppose Taiwan’s ‘independence.'”

The U.S. often sends tens of millions of {dollars} in protection help to Taiwan, together with a $300 million package in December that triggered Chinese sanctions in opposition to U.S. firms.

“Taiwan is a key half of international provide chains,” the White House official stated. “A disruption to peace and stability throughout the Taiwan Strait would critically harm the worldwide financial system.”

China has maintained army stress on the island with hovering satellites, army plane, ships and balloons. China additionally revoked tax concessions for sure imports to Taiwan, claiming the island had violated elements of its commerce agreements, and prolonged a probe into these violations till Jan. 12, only a day earlier than Taiwan’s election.

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