BEIJING (AP) — China's foreign minister warned that any moves to damage Beijing's core interests would be self-detrimental after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said he could use the way in which America deals with Taiwan as a bargaining chip.
Wang Yi's comments late Monday came a day after Trump said in a television interview that he didn't feel "bound by a one-China policy." Washington, however, reaffirmed the U.S. government's commitment to the policy that means it maintains only unofficial relations with Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing considers its territory.
Since recognizing the People's Republic of China in 1979, the U.S. has adhered to the one-China policy, recognizing Beijing as the capital of China and maintaining only unofficial relations with Taiwan. American law, however, requires the U.S. to ensure that Taiwan has the means to defend itself and to treat all threats to the island as matters of serious concern.
China split from Taiwan amid civil war in 1949 and continues to regard the island as a breakaway province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.
"I can clearly say, whether it is the authorities of Tsai Ing-wen, or anyone else or any power in the world, if they attempt to harm this principle or China's core interests, the only result will be that they will smash their own foot while trying to lift a stone," Wang said after meeting with his Swiss counterpart Didier Burkhalter in Switzerland.
Earlier Monday, Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China's foreign ministry, said in Beijing that established policy is the "political foundation" of any diplomatic relationship between China and the U.S., and that any damage to it could render cooperation "out of the question."
"We urge the new U.S. leader and government to fully understand the seriousness of the Taiwan issue, and to continue to stick to the one-China policy," Geng said.
The comments by Wang and Geng are the strongest public condemnation China has made of Trump's criticisms of current American policy toward Taiwan.
Beijing was already angered by Trump's Dec. 2 phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai, the first time an American president or president-elect has publicly spoken to a Taiwanese leader in nearly four decades. China considers any reference to a separate Taiwanese head of state to be a grave insult.
Over the weekend, Trump told "Fox News Sunday" that he wouldn't feel "bound by a one-China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade."
"Why should some other nation be able to say I can't take a call?" he said. "I think it actually would've been very disrespectful, to be honest with you, not taking it."
In Washington, the White House and State Department both reaffirmed the U.S. government's commitment to a one-China policy.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said "the United States government, under the leadership of President Obama, has been and remains firmly committed to our one-China policy." He added that "the Obama administration does not view Taiwan and our relationship with Taiwan as a bargaining chip."
State Department spokesman John Kirby the department had "continued what has been a bipartisan approach for the past 40 years with respect to a one-China policy."
Chinese officials have been restrained in their responses so far. They may be still trying to learn how to make their positions clear to Trump without feeding a vicious circle of insults and heightened tensions, said Dali Yang, a political science professor at the University of Chicago.
However, Trump's suggestion that he could negotiate on Taiwan likely went too far for China, Yang said.
"He expected for China to bargain again for the one-China position, perhaps by giving up something on trade or something of that nature," Yang said. "This is actually the foundation of the U.S.-China relationship, rather than something to be bargained over."
Associated Press writers Louise Watt in Beijing and Matthew Pennington in Washington and AP researchers Yu Bing and Liu Zheng contributed to this report.