Taiwan returned to the center of international politics

Taiwan’s new passport design shouts “Taiwan” in a bigger font

Taiwan to ease rules on US pork, beef

President Tsai Ing-wen yesterday announced that Taiwan would ease restrictions on US beef and pork imports, while setting standards for pork containing ractopamine, in an apparent attempt to broker a trade deal with the US.

“This is a decision that was made based on national economic interests and is in line with future comprehensive strategic objectives,” Tsai told a news conference at the Presidential Office in Taipei.

Despite her Democratic Progressive Party’s long insistence on a “zero tolerance” policy toward ractopamine, Tsai said she has instructed government agencies to set a “safe tolerance” level for the leanness-enhancing drug in imported pork, based on scientific evidence and international standards, on the condition that the public’s health is protected.

Washington has for nearly a decade criticized Taipei as an “unreliable trade partner,” because it had failed to set a legal standard for the amount of ractopamine permitted in pork imported from the US, which has hampered US pork exports to the nation, he said.

On whether lifting the ban would lead to concrete economic progress — such as the signing of the Taiwan-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement — Deng said Washington is not looking for a quid pro quo exchange, but is seeking to remove trade obstacles.

The US views Taiwan as an important trade partner, and he believed the US would soon take action to bolster bilateral ties, he added.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei yesterday in a statement welcomed the decision, saying it would help Taiwan and the US to make progress in starting negotiations for a bilateral trade agreement.

Taipei Times

Declassified Taiwan assurances, arms sales cables released by US

The U.S. released two declassified documents on its security assurances to Taiwan in an effort to counter China’s growing military aggressiveness toward the country.

The two cables from 1982, which refer to arms sales to Taiwan and the “Six Assurances” made to Taiwan, were declassified on July 16, 2020, and were posted on the American Institute in Taiwan’s (AIT) website on Monday (Aug. 31). The decision to highlight both documents follows calls from defense analysts, former officials, and Taiwan supporters in Congress to make a commitment to come to Taiwan’s aid if it were attacked by Beijing, the Financial Times reported.

According to a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), the cables are examples of America’s firm commitment to Taiwan’s security as China continues to undermine regional peace and security in the Taiwan Strait. The cables were also released to show the U.S. interpretation of the 1982 Communiqué signed by Washington and Beijing, where China promised to resolve the issues in the Taiwan Strait peacefully.

The first declassified cable was sent on July 10, 1982, from then U.S. Under Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger to then AIT Director James Lilley with respect to ongoing U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

“The cable explains that the U.S. willingness to reduce its arms sales to Taiwan is conditioned upon the continued commitment of the PRC to a peaceful solution of cross-Strait differences,” the AIT statement said.

The statement went on, “Further, if the PRC were to become more hostile, then the United States would increase arms sales to Taiwan.” The cable shows Washington’s chief concern was maintaining peace across the Taiwan Strait and ends by saying “this final assurance: U.S. arms sales to Taiwan will continue.”

Similar sentiments were expressed in an internal presidential memo drafted by President Ronald Reagan on Aug. 17, 1982, which act as guidelines for Washington’s interpretation of the 1982 Communiqué. It was sent from then U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz to then AIT Director Lilley offering six assurances to Taiwan.

According to the AIT, the “Six Assurances” have been a cornerstone of U.S. policy toward Taiwan and China. They include U.S. pledges not to set a date for ending arms sales to Taiwan, not to consult with China on arms sales to Taiwan, not to play a mediation role between Taiwan and China, not to revise the Taiwan Relations Act, not to alter its position regarding sovereignty over Taiwan, and not to exert pressure on Taiwan to enter into negotiations with China.

Taiwan News

Merkel’s top diplomat warns China over Taiwan ‘threats’

A tense back-and-forth in Berlin on Tuesday (Wednesday AEST) showed how a planned Chinese charm offensive in Europe only appears to have backfired.

On the final stop of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s five-nation swing through Europe, he was confronted by German counterpart Heiko Maas for saying the Czech Senate president would pay a “heavy price” for his Taiwan visit. Mr Maas said he’d spoken by phone with his Czech counterpart and emphasised that Europe wouldn’t be intimidated.

“We as Europeans act in close cooperation – we offer our international partners respect, and we expect the exact same from them,” Mr Maas said at a 50-minute press briefing in Berlin alongside Mr Wang. “Threats don’t fit in here.”

Mr Wang stood his ground, saying that Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil’s visit was an intervention in China’s internal affairs and a violation to which the government in Beijing had to respond.

“You’ve crossed a red line,” Mr Wang said in Berlin, referring to Vystrcil and his 90-member delegation, including Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib, a Beijing critic who in January made Taipei a sister city to the Czech capital.

During the press briefing, Mr Wang was pressured on China’s stance on Hong Kong, the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, his assertive comments during his week-long European tour and China’s treatment of ethnic Uighurs in the far west region of Xinjiang.

He issued an extended defence of Chinese policy, reiterating warnings that accusations against Beijing constitute an intervention in the country’s internal affairs – and denying that China sought to disrupt relations.

“We are not trouble-makers,” Mr Wang said.

The tensions overshadowed issues including an EU-China investment accord, which Angela Merkel’s government had aimed to complete by the end of the year. Mr Maas said the 27-member bloc would assert its sovereignty and won’t become a “play thing” as the US, China and Russia shake geopolitical foundations.

More broadly, it showed China’s failure to win over Europe as it seeks to counter pressure from the Trump administration on everything from democracy in Hong Kong to data security over apps such as TikTok and WeChat.

The Chinese diplomat had started the five-nation European trip saying relations with Europe shouldn’t suffer because of Beijing’s intensifying stand-off with President Donald Trump, who has touted his strong stance against China on the campaign trail ahead of the November election. But his appearances tended to only ratchet up tensions with the region.

In Norway, he suggested that the Nobel Peace Prize should not be issued to Hong Kong protesters, evoking memories of a cratering of relations a decade ago when the committee awarded the prize to a Chinese democracy advocate. Matters then escalated with the warning against the Czech politician, which only appeared to unify European countries.

The French Foreign Ministry weighed in on Tuesday, calling Mr Wang’s comments on the Czech visit to Taiwan “unacceptable”.

“#EU-#China relations are based on dialogue and mutual respect,” Slovakia President Zuzana Caputova tweeted.

“Threats directed at one of the EU members and its representatives contradict the very essence of our partnership and as such are unacceptable.”


‘I am Taiwanese’: Czech official angers China after Taipei speech

“I am Taiwanese,” said Czech Senate leader Milos Vystrcil during a speech to Taiwan’s lawmakers in  Taipei on Tuesday, a move that drew swift ire from Beijing.

The phrase used by Vystrcil evokes a famous speech by US President John F Kennedy during a Cold War trip to West Berlin in 1963.

The Czech official’s comments prompted further backlash from China. During a visit to Germany’s capital Berlin on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the Senate president’s trip to Taiwan amounts to “crossing a red line.”

Beijing had already condemned the trip on Monday.

Taiwan has had an independent government since 1949, but China views it as its own territory. China reacts strongly to attempts by foreign governments to recognize or conduct official exchanges with Taipei.

‘Ich bin ein Berliner’

Vystrcil said Kennedy “used the phrase ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ to show his support for the people of Berlin and the highest values of freedom.”

“Maybe I can be more humble but allow me to use the same determined phrase to conclude my speech in your country’s parliament, in Taiwan — I am Taiwanese,” concluded Vystrcil.

The final phrase — delivered in Mandarin — was met with a standing ovation from Taiwanese lawmakers.

Heightened tensions

Vystrcil is heading up a 90-member delegation of Czech civic and political leaders to Taipei, the largest-ever Czech delegation visiting Taiwan since the European country became democratic in 1989, ending Communist rule.

Vystrcil maintains the trip is to promote business links and said he would not give in to Chinese objections.

On Monday, Beijing warned that Vystrcil would pay “a heavy price” for the visit. In response, the Czech Republic’s Foreign Ministry said it would summon China’s envoy to Prague.

Relations between China and the Czech Republic were already strained, when earlier this year the city of Prague signed a partnership agreement with Taipei that prompted Shanghai to cut ties as a sister city.


Taiwan to change passport, fed up with confusion with China

Fed up with being confused for China amid the coronavirus pandemic and Beijing’s stepped-up efforts to assert sovereignty, Taiwan said on Wednesday it would redesign its passport to give greater prominence to the island’s name.

Taiwan has complained during the outbreak that its nationals have encountered problems entering other countries, as Taiwanese passports have the words “Republic of China”, its formal name, written in large English font at the top, with “Taiwan” printed at the bottom.

The new passport, expected to come into circulation in January, removes the large English words “Republic of China”, though the name in Chinese characters will remain, and enlarges the word “Taiwan” in English.

Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said new passports were needed to prevent their nationals being mistaken for Chinese citizens, especially with the stepped up entry checks many countries have begun since the pandemic began.

“Since the beginning of the Wuhan pneumonia outbreak this year our people have kept hoping that we can give more prominence to Taiwan’s visibility, avoiding people mistakenly thinking they are from China,” Wu told reporters.

China claims democratic Taiwan as its sovereign territory, and says only it has the right to speak for the island internationally, a position it has pushed strongly during the pandemic, especially at the World Health Organization.

Taipei says this has confused countries and led them to impose the same restrictions on Taiwanese travellers as on Chinese, and has minimised Taiwan’s own successful efforts to control the virus and far lower case number.

Taiwan has been debating for years who it is and what exactly its relationship should be with China – including the island’s name. But the pandemic has shot the issue back into the spotlight.

The government is also considering a name change – or at least a full redesign – for Taiwan’s largest carrier, China Airlines, again to avoid confusion with China.



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