US to hold private ‘special channel’ talks with top Taiwan officials, report says

The White House is reportedly planning to hold “special channel” secret talks with top Taiwan officials as part of a diplomatic dialogue it intends to keep private to prevent an aggressive reaction from China.

The diplomatic talks, called a “special channel”, will involve Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu and national security adviser Wellington Koo, reported the Financial Times on Saturday, citing anonymous sources.

US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman and deputy national security adviser Jon Finer will take part in the meeting that will be held at the Virginia headquarters of the American Institute in Taiwan, according to the report.

“I’m not able to comment on that and I’m not able to confirm that,” Mr Wu told reporters in Taipei.

US administrations have not discussed the existence of such a “secret” diplomatic channel that has reportedly been used earlier to address security issues in Taiwan.

The channel has apparently become of significance once more to the US as China has become increasingly assertive around Taiwan.

China, which claims Taiwan is a part of its own territory, has taken a strong exception to Western officials visiting the democratically governed island territory and its military ties with ally US.

In August last year, the country conducted large-scale military exercises that included firing missiles over Taiwan in protest after former US House speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island.

The report of the “special channel” being revived comes as the Pentagon’s top China official is reportedly paying a visit to the self-governed island.

Deputy assistant secretary of defense Michael Chase reached Taiwan on Friday in a visit that the country’s defence minister Chiu Kuo-cheng had earlier said he was “not very certain” would take place, reported Reuters.

The minister, when asked about the trip on the sidelines of a parliament session, said “those who are friendly to us” are “very welcome”.

Neither Taiwan nor US officials have officially commented on the details of the trip.

“I won’t explain the details. I won’t explain until I get formal notification,” Mr Kuo-cheng said.

“We don’t have a comment on specific operations... but I would highlight that our support for, and defence relationship with, Taiwan remains aligned against the current threat posed by the People’s Republic of China,” a Pentagon spokesperson told Reuters.

The reports of the top US official’s visit and plans about the “special channel” have come amid turbulent times in US-China relations.

The US military shot down a suspected surveillance balloon belonging to China off the Carolina coast after it was spotted flying over North America for eight days.

China has maintained that the balloon was a civilian aircraft and had gone astray while monitoring the weather. The US has accused the country of carrying out surveillance, sparking a war of words between the two superpowers.