TAIPEI (Reuters) – A British minister will visit Taiwan this week for trade talks and meet President Tsai Ing-wen, a British minister’s office said on Monday, prompting an angry reaction from Beijing over the latest high-level engagement between a Western government. And the island.
China views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, and strongly objects to any official interactions between Taipei and foreign governments, believing this to be a show of support for Taiwan’s secession from China.
Britain’s Department for International Trade said Greg Hands, Minister of State for Trade and also a Member of Parliament, will meet with Tsai and co-host the 25th annual UK-Taiwan trade talks during his two-day visit.
“Visiting Taiwan in person is a clear signal of the UK’s commitment to strengthening trade relations between the UK and Taiwan. Like the UK, Taiwan is a champion of free and fair trade underpinned by a rules-based global trading system,” his office said in a statement. statement.
Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said China firmly opposes any form of official exchanges between a country with which it has diplomatic relations and Taiwan.
“We urge the British side to stop any form of official exchanges with Taiwan and stop sending wrong signals to the separatist forces for Taiwan independence,” he said.
His office added that Al-Ayyad will also meet with Taiwan’s chief trade negotiator John Ding and Economy Minister Wang Mei-hwa.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Economy declined to comment, saying that meetings it was arranging were closed to the media.
Taiwan sees Britain as a like-minded democratic partner, emboldened by London’s concerns about recent Chinese war games near the island and its support for its participation in international organizations, which has mostly closed off Taiwan due to China’s objections.
Britain, like Taiwan, is also seeking to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP. Members agreed in February that Britain could go ahead with its request, as it searches for new trading ties after leaving the European Union.
China has also applied to join.
There are no official diplomatic relations between Britain and Taiwan, but they have close economic and informal relations, and Britain maintains a physical embassy in Taipei.
Western lawmakers and other officials have stepped up visits to Taiwan, despite the vehement objections of Beijing, which views the island as its own territory and is angry at anything suggesting it is a separate country.
China organized war games near Taiwan in August after a visit to Taipei by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
(Ben Blanchard Report). Additional reporting by Eduardo Baptista in Beijing. Editing by Lincoln Fest and Toby Chopra
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