President Barack Obama's White House on Monday made it clear that US' relationship with Taiwan was not a "bargaining chip" and that America was firmly committed to the decades-old "One-China" policy, a day after President-elect Donald Trump questioned the relevance of pursuing the policy.
"The United States government, under the leadership of President Obama, has been and remains firmly committed to our one-China policy. That's also the policy, by the way, that previous Presidents in both parties have pursued and our country has benefited from adherence to that policy," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.
"One reason that we have pursued that policy is because the Obama administration does not view Taiwan and our relationship with Taiwan as a bargaining chip," he said, adding that Taiwan is the ninth-largest trading partner of the US.
Trump on Sunday questioned the relevance of continuing the "One-China" policy if Beijing refuses to make any concessions on trade and other issues. He had said that China was "very badly" hurting the US by devaluing its currency and accused the communist nation of not helping in reigning in North Korea.
Trump has suggested he can leverage Taiwan by questioning the "One China" policy and force China to "make a deal".
Trump's "One China" rhetoric prompted the strongest public warning from China on Monday that bilateral ties will be damaged.
"Adherence to one-China principle is the political bedrock of the China-US relations. If it is compromised or disrupted, the sound and steady growth of China-US relationship as well as bilateral cooperation in major fields would be out of question," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
The US, since 1979, has respected China's stance on Taiwan, which it sees as a breakaway province. But Trump said without concessions from China, he did not see why it should continue.
"Bargaining that away is not something that this administration believes is in our best interest. In fact, I think you would be hard-pressed to make the case that it's in the interest of Taiwan," Earnest said.
Under the Obama administration, the US has been able to lower tensions around cyber issues and they have been able to work effectively with the Chinese to ramp up pressure on the North.
"We certainly don't agree with the Chinese on everything, but where common ground does exist, we've been able to make progress in a way that benefits the American people and benefits the Chinese people... That kind of progress is much more difficult if tensions are heightened around our one-China policy," Earnest said.
Obama, he noted, has worked hard to manage relationships with China and Russia in a way that gives the US the opportunity to capitalise on common ground where it exists.
"In each case, our differences are substantial, but in each case effective diplomacy resulted in both those countries bolstering our effort to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and further isolate the North Korean regime for their destabilising activities on the (Korean) peninsula," he said.