The U.S. policy of not supporting the independence of Taiwan remains unchanged, government officials said Wednesday, after the removal of such a reference from the State Department's "fact sheet" on relations with the island angered China.
"We do not support Taiwan independence and we have repeatedly made this clear both in public and in private," State Department spokesman Ned Price told a press briefing.
White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell separately said during a think-tank event the same day, "I can be very direct. Our policy has not changed and remains consistent."
Since switching diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, Washington has committed to a one-China policy under which it recognizes Beijing as the "sole legal government of China." But the policy allows unofficial ties with Taiwan and provision of assistance to help the island maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.
Washington maintains an ambiguous position regarding the use of military force in response to any Chinese attack on Taiwan, a policy aimed at both deterring China from invading and dissuading Taipei from seeking independence.
The State Department's fact sheet on Taiwan relations had previously stated that the United States does not support Taiwan independence.
But the language was removed, along with a phrase that Taiwan is part of China, following an update posted online on May 5. Price said such updates are made "regularly."
"The fact sheet had not been updated in several years...I think we care most about ensuring that our relationships around the world are reflected accurately in our fact sheets," Price said Tuesday.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian emphasized Tuesday that Taiwan is "an inalienable part of the Chinese territory" and criticized the fact sheet change as "political manipulation of the Taiwan question."
"The attempt to change the status quo across the Taiwan Strait will hurt the United States itself," he warned.
Tensions have been growing over Taiwan as China steps up its military pressure on the island while the United States forges closer ties with Taipei. Beijing considers Taiwan a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary,
The new fact sheet said the United States "continues to encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-strait differences consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people on Taiwan."