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story.lead_photo.caption In this image made from video, American Institute in Taiwan director Brent Christensen gestures while speaking during a press conference in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018. Washington's de facto ambassador to Taiwan reassured the self-governing island of American security backing against threats from China. (AP Photo)

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Any attempt to determine Taiwan's future by "other than peaceful means" is a threat to regional security and a matter of "grave concern" to the United States, Washington's unofficial ambassador to Taipei said Wednesday, in a nod to Chinese military intimidation against the island.

Brent Christensen also said Washington would continue military sales to Taiwan while promoting its participation in the international community that Beijing increasingly seeks to restrict.

China considers Taiwan its own territory to be absorbed by use of force if necessary. It has lately stepped up its threats in an attempt to undermine President Tsai Ing-wen, who has refused to bow to Beijing's demand that she recognize Taiwan as a part of China.

The U.S. cut formal ties with Taiwan in 1979 to recognize Beijing but the two maintain robust unofficial military and diplomatic ties. Those relations are underpinned by the Taiwan Relations Act, which requires the United States to ensure that Taiwan has the ability to defend itself and U.S. policy "has not changed" in the 40 years since its passage, Christensen said at a news conference.

"Any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means represents a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and is of grave concern to the United States," said Christensen, who heads the American Institute in Taiwan, which functions as an embassy in all but name.

Christensen pointed to a recent $330 million arms sale to Taiwan as evidence of Washington's fulfilling its obligation to support Taiwan in "maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability against coercion."

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman on Wednesday reiterated Beijing's strong opposition to arms sales and "any kind of official exchanges and military interactions between the U.S. and Taiwan."

While the U.S. encourages dialogue between China and Taiwan, it will at the same time cooperate to promote shared democratic values and improve economic relations with the island, Christensen said.

That includes ensuring Taiwan has a voice in international organizations from which Taiwan has been excluded. China has used its economic might and diplomatic clout to keep Taiwan out of the United Nations, and has increased the pressure by blocking Taipei's representatives from attending international meetings such as the World Health Assembly, while pressuring multinational companies to describe Taiwan as part of China.

A Section on 11/01/2018

Print Headline: U.S. assures Taiwan of support, arms sales

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