Testifying at his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday, Nicholas Burns said reports showing China could build its nuclear arsenal are troubling, and called on Beijing to stop “its Xinjiang genocide, its abuses in Tibet.” , the strangulation of Hong Kong ‘s autonomy and freedoms. ” , and its harassment of Taiwan. “
If confirmed, Burns will fill the role of ambassador – who has been vacant for a year – amid ongoing tensions between Washington and Beijing, a relationship he called “complicated and consequential”.
“Beijing ‘s recent actions against Taiwan are particularly unpleasant,” he said. “The United States has a right to continue to adhere to its policy on China. But we also have the right to support the peaceful settlement of disputes in this region and to oppose unilateral actions that undermine the status quo and undermine the stability of the Region. “
Under the “One China” policy, the US accepts China’s claim to sovereignty over Taiwan.
However, Burns also spoke of continued adherence to the Taiwan Relations Act, a 1979 law that supports U.S. informal relations with Taiwan, including the government’s ability to provide weapons on the self-governing island.
Burns, a former career diplomat, said the United States has “a lot of room – Congress and the executive branch – under the Taiwan Relations Act to deepen our security assistance to Taiwan.”
“Given what China has done, given China’s sincerely contradictory statements against Taiwan, I think Congress and the executive branch have every right to continue to deepen our security cooperation, to expand our arms provisions in Taiwan,” he said. that’s the most important thing we can do, “Burns told lawmakers in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Emphasized the importance of the US military presence in Asia
Burns stressed the importance of maintaining a US military presence in Asia as a means of preventing Chinese aggression.
“Perhaps the most important thing we can do is maintain the US military position in Japan, in the Republic of Korea, in that first island chain, but also at our Anderson Air Force base in Guam,” he said, describing that presence as an “effective deterrent to peacekeeping.”
Burns also said reports indicating that China is pursuing a nuclear weapons construction, as well as reports about its new distribution systems, are troubling.
“What I think should concern us all is the attitude of the Chinese government. They do not believe that they should be limited in any way by the form or form of arms control. The United States is subject to it; Russia is subject to it, “At least in the past. Our other nuclear allies, the United Kingdom and France do,” he said.
“I know the Trump administration made an effort to do that, and it had the right to do so, to get the Chinese to think about their obligations. And I think it’s very important that we do it on a bipartisan basis. “But of course these are worrying developments,” Burns added.
The Trump administration tried unsuccessfully to get China to participate in trilateral talks with the US and Russia with the aim of reaching a tripartite agreement on nuclear weapons control.
Burns, a former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and US Ambassador to NATO and Greece, also stressed that the United States should seek to cooperate with China in areas “where it is in our interest, including climate change, counter-narcotics, global health, and non-proliferation “.
CNN’s Kylie Atwood, Nicole Gaouette and Ellie Kaufman contributed to this report.
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