US holds high-level talks with UK over Chinese threat to Taiwan

The United States held high-level talks with the United Kingdom on how it can cooperate more closely to reduce the risk of war with China over Taiwan and to explore contingency plans for the first time. in case of conflict.

Kurt Campbell, the White House Indo-Pacific coordinator, and Laura Rosenberger, China’s top National Security Council official, held a meeting in Taiwan with British officials in early March, according to people familiar with the matter. This happened during a larger two-day meeting with their respective teams on the Indo-Pacific Strategy.

Three people familiar with the enhanced engagement said the United States wants to strengthen cooperation with European allies, such as the United Kingdom, to raise awareness of what the administration sees as the increasingly assertive attitude of Beijing with regard to Taiwan, which it considers to be part of China.

The United States does not engage the United Kingdom due to an imminent threat. The Taiwan dialogue is intended to complement more advanced discussions the United States has had with Japan and Australia as Beijing has stepped up its military activities around Taiwan. Over the past year, China has been flying more and more fighter jets, bombers and other warplanes near the island.

Admiral John Aquilino, head of the US Indo-Pacific Command, told the Financial Times last month during a trip to Australia to support the alliance that the war in Ukraine had underscored the risk China was taking. weigh on Taiwan.

One of the people said the Taiwan meeting covered everything from how the UK could do more diplomacy with Taipei to talks about strengthening deterrence in Asia. It also included discussions of the role the UK would play if the US ended up in a war with China over Taiwan.

The person added that the Biden administration provided some allies with intelligence on Taiwan that was previously classified as “NOFORN” — a designation that prohibits sharing information with foreign officials.

A British official said the restricted meeting was the “highest-level” and “most important” discussion between Taiwan countries to date. He said it was part of a “deeper political conversation” that began under the Biden administration.

“Naturally, crisis planning would be an important part of any such conversation on Taiwan,” the official added.

The White House did not comment on the Taiwan meeting. A UK government spokesman said ‘we never comment on private meetings’.

Ryan Hass, a Taiwanese expert at the Brookings Institution, said it was wise to intensify consultations on Taiwan, both to reduce the risk of war and to prepare for a possible conflict, especially given the “context of Ukraine”.

“It is prudent for U.S. officials to quietly consult with partners about what more could be done to deter conflict in the Taiwan Strait, and if it becomes necessary, to respond decisively to the challenges to peace and stability there. -down,” Hass said.

A sign of enhanced cooperation with the UK, HMS Queen Elizabeth, a British aircraft carrier, spent more than six months deployed in the Indo-Pacific last year.

Heino Klinck, a former senior Pentagon official for Asia, welcomed the US-British consultations on Taiwan. He said they followed European naval deployments to the Indo-Pacific that increased last year after the Trump administration held talks with European allies about boosting operations in the South China Sea.

“Deterring Chinese aggression against Taiwan is in everyone’s interest. It’s not just an Indo-Pacific problem, it’s a global problem,” Klinck said.

“US military planners are not counting on Germany or France sending warships, or Britain sending an aircraft carrier in the event of a conflict over Taiwan. But when these countries send ships to the South China Sea or transit through the Taiwan Strait, it sends a strong signal to China.

A senior Taiwanese official said Taipei was aware of US efforts to involve more allies in its planning in Taiwan. “They did it with Japan and Australia, and now they’re trying to do it with Britain,” he said.

Diplomats from three Indo-Pacific countries said the enhanced US-British initiative had taken US engagement in Taiwan to an unprecedented level.

Liz Truss, British Foreign Secretary, said this week that NATO should play a role in Asia. “We must anticipate threats in the Indo-Pacific, working with allies like Japan and Australia to ensure the Pacific is protected,” she said. “We need to ensure that democracies like Taiwan are able to defend themselves.”

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