China’s new envoy to the U.S. stresses importance of Taiwan at first high-level meeting

China’s newly appointed ambassador to Washington stressed the great importance of Taiwan in the Sino-U.S. relationship during his first meeting with a senior U.S. official since taking the post, according to Chinese state media.

Qin Gang, 55, who has earned a reputation for publicly defending his country’s positions, struck an optimistic tone in late July upon his arrival in Washington to take up his post, saying bilateral relations had great potential.

In his meeting with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, Qin said the two had a “deep and very frank” exchange of views, the official Xinhua news agency reported Friday.

“The two sides agreed that China-U.S. bilateral relations are very important and that it is necessary to solve problems through dialogue and communication, manage differences and contradictions, and improve bilateral relations,” Xinhua said.

The only issue directly mentioned in the report was China’s claim to Taiwan, the democratically governed island that China considers its sovereign territory.

“Qin Gang emphasized that the Taiwan issue is the most important and sensitive issue in China-U.S. relations. He clearly stated China’s position to Sherman,” Xinhua added, without elaborating further.

China has been outraged by increased U.S. support for Taiwan, including arms sales and donations of COVID-19 vaccine, on the grounds that Washington is colluding with Taiwan forces seeking formal independence for the island, a red line for Beijing.

The United States, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan but is its biggest international supporter and its main arms supplier.

Meeting with the newly arrived de facto U.S. ambassador to Taipei, Sandra Oudkirk, on Friday, Taiwan Vice President William Lai welcomed U.S. support and its insistence, along with its allies, on the importance of stability in the Taiwan Strait “in the face of threats from China.”

“This is extremely helpful to Taiwan society, developments across the Taiwan Strait, and peace in the Indo-Pacific,” the presidential office quoted Lai as saying.