German minister praises ‘dear’ Taiwan, China protests ‘despicable’ visit

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Germany’s education minister said on Tuesday she was honored to visit “esteemed partner” Taiwan, but that her trip was unrelated to her government’s China strategy, as Beijing said it had protested near Berlin about her “mean behavior” when going there.

China views democratically-governed Taiwan as its own territory and has stepped up military, political and economic pressure to enforce those claims. The politically sensitive visit comes as Berlin reviews its previously close ties with China.

A visit to Taiwan in January by a delegation of senior lawmakers from the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), the smallest party in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s three-time coalition, sparked protests from Beijing.

Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger, also of the FDP, at the signing of a technology cooperation agreement with Taiwan’s Minister of National Science and Technology Council, Wu Tsung-tsong, said it was “extremely important for my ministry and for me to develop cooperation promote with like-minded partners”.

“This arrangement stands for strengthening cooperation based on the democratic values ​​of transparency, openness, reciprocity and scientific freedom, to name a few,” she said.

Political cartoons about world leaders

“It is a great pleasure and honor for me to be the prime minister in charge of a specialized government department in 26 years visiting Taiwan,” she added. “Taiwan is a highly valued partner with its excellent research institutions.”

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said they had lodged a strong protest with Germany over her “vicious behavior”.

Germany should “immediately stop associating and interacting with Taiwan’s separatist independence forces, immediately stop sending wrong signals to Taiwan’s separatist forces, and immediately stop using the Taiwan issue to interfere in China’s internal affairs,” Wang told a daily news briefing.

Germany, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, although it does have a de facto embassy in Taipei.

Due to the sensitivity of the trip, Stark-Watzinger is not scheduled to meet with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

In a departure from the policies of former Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, Olaf Scholz’s government is developing a new China strategy to reduce the economic powerhouse’s dependence on Asia, hitherto a vital export market for German goods.

In response to a reporter’s question, Stark-Watzinger said, “The federal government’s China strategy remains unchanged. To that extent, today’s visit is unrelated to that”.

(Reporting by Fabian Hamacher; Additional reporting by Yew Lun Tian in Beijing; Writing by Ben Blanchard. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

Leave a Comment