President Joe Biden's administration held virtual talks Thursday with a Taiwanese minister on boosting commercial ties, after China warned the United States against pursuing a trade deal.
US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, a member of Biden's cabinet, spoke to minister without portfolio John Deng on "the importance of the US-Taiwan trade and investment relationship," a US statement said.
Tai committed to holding talks "in the coming weeks" of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement Council, which under former president Barack Obama was in charge of finding ways to deepen commercial relations.
Such talks were last held in 2016 before the election of Donald Trump, who switched gears and focused on reaching a mega-deal with China, although relations between Washington and Beijing deteriorated sharply by the end of his turbulent term.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday told a congressional hearing that the United States would "soon" hold talks with Taiwan on "some kind of framework agreement."
His remarks drew a rebuke from the Chinese foreign ministry, which urged the United States to "stop any form of official exchanges with Taiwan, handle the Taiwan issue cautiously and refrain from sending any wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces."
Taiwan enjoys strong bipartisan backing in the United States but Beijing considers the self-governing democracy to be a territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
President Tsai Ing-wen has stressed Taiwan's separate identity after her predecessor entered into a major trade deal with mainland China.
The virtual talks Thursday follow a weekend visit to Taipei by a group of US senators who promised to donate 750,000 coronavirus vaccine doses to the island.