China should not be so “narrow-minded”, Taiwan said Thursday, after Beijing pressed Washington to block the island from attending Donald Trump’s inauguration.
A former premier will lead Taipei’s delegation as foreign dignitaries from around the world descend on the US capital for the president-elect’s swearing in.
But Beijing has asked the US to bar the self-ruling island it sees as a renegade province and part of “one China” to be reunified.
“We urge again the American side not to allow any Taiwanese official delegation to attend the US presidential inauguration ceremony and to have any kind of official contact with Taiwan,” said Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s ministry of foreign affairs, at a regular press briefing Thursday.
Former premier Yu Shyi-kun, who is leading Taiwan’s delegation hit back.
“Don’t be so small,” Yu, who belongs to the ruling Beijing-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party, was quoted as saying by Taiwan’s state Central News Agency.
“There hasn’t been any leader with such a narrow mind in all Chinese dynasties,” added Yu, referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Since Trump was elected in November, there have been a series of diplomatic upsets, with China incensed by a protocol-smashing phone call between the billionaire and Taiwan’s leader Tsai Ing-wen.
It was further angered by Trump’s suggestion that the “one China” policy could be negotiable and demanded Washington ban Taipei from the inauguration.
A Taiwanese delegation has attended in previous years, despite the lack of formal diplomatic ties, but never includes the island’s president.
Washington remains Taiwan’s most powerful ally and arms supplier even though it switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.
Chiu Chui-cheng, spokesman of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council which handles China affairs, called Beijing’s rhetoric “unhelpful for the normal development” of relations.
“There is no need for China to restrict or suppress Taiwan’s regular interactions and exchanges with the US”, he said.
Taiwan’s delegation also includes some legislators including pro-independence rocker-turned-politician Freddy Lim of the New Power Party, which is calling for Taiwan to be recognised internationally as a country.
Ties with China have turned increasingly frosty since Tsai took office last year, with Beijing cutting off official communication with her government.
Beijing has recently stepped up military drills — its only aircraft carrier sailed through the Taiwan Strait last week, and military aircraft passed near Taiwan twice late last year in what was seen as a show of strength.