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Pompeo puts “ground mines” in US-China relations, says Australian Kevin Rudd

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s latest move to Taiwan could lay the groundwork for US-China relations – further complicating tense bilateral relations just before President-elect Joe Biden takes office, said former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

“What Pompeo is doing is setting up a series of anti-personnel mines for Biden’s incoming administration … salting the land in US-China relations in general and laying landmines in particular on Taiwan,”

; Rudd said Monday. in front of CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia.

Over the weekend, Pompeo announced the removal of all “self-imposed restrictions” on US relations with Taiwan, a democratic and self-governing island that China claims as its territory.

Pompeo said in a statement Saturday that the United States has had unilaterally limited contact between its officials and their Taiwanese counterparts for decades “in an attempt to calm the communist regime in Beijing”. He then said that all these restrictions “no longer exist”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the US State Department

Win McNamee | Getty images

The move could mark the end of a “Chinese policy,” said Rudd, who is now president of the Asian Political Institute for Society.

The only Chinese policy is the principle that the United States and the international community recognize that there is only one Chinese government – led by the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing.

“This has been the foundation of strategic stability for the last 40 years or so,” the former Australian leader said.

“I think we need to understand that we are moving towards the end of China’s policy.” And what does this mean for the markets? What does this mean for the international community? This means a new period of real strategic instability, as it is a key element of the faith in Beijing, “he added.

The Communist Party has never ruled Taiwan, but Beijing considers the island’s unification with the mainland to be a coincidence, so Taiwan has no right to engage in its own international diplomacy.

China and Taiwan are responding to Pompeo’s move

China has reportedly attacked the US decision to lift restrictions on Taiwan, while the Taiwanese Foreign Ministry thanked Pompeo on Twitter.

Zhao Lijiang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said China had opposed Pompeo’s move and would resolutely respond to attempts to sabotage his interest, Reuters reported.

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, meanwhile, said Pompeo’s lifting of US restrictions on contact with Taiwan was “a big deal”, the agency said.

“Taiwan-US relations have been elevated to a global partnership. The foreign ministry will not let us down and hopes to continue to stimulate the development of Taiwanese-American relations,” Wu said.

Rudd said Pompeo could be motivated to solidify the US position on China so that he could attack Biden as “softened” on China if the new administration make policy changes. Some media reports point to Pompeo as a potential candidate for president in 2024.

However, the Biden administration is unlikely to deviate from the “strategic ambiguity” that has long been US foreign policy toward Taiwan, Rudd said.

Uncertainty helps maintain “sufficient doubt” that the United States will immediately protect Taiwan if the island is accept any “reckless policy” as a unilateral declaration of independence from China, Rudd explained.

The other dimension of the US position includes challenging any assumption by Beijing that Washington will not react if the mainland takes any military action against Taiwan, Rudd added.

“It’s a strategic ambiguity so far. I don’t see it as a change.”

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