TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu urged “freedom-loving countries” on Friday to work together against China, during a rare trip to Europe that is taking place amid heightened tensions between Taipei and Beijing.
Self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own and has not ruled out taking by force, does not have formal diplomatic relations with any European countries apart from Vatican City. But it is keen to deepen ties with European Union democracies.
Wu’s European trip has angered Beijing, which last week warned Slovakia and the Czech Republic against undermining their bilateral relations with China by allowing a visit to those countries.
“The rise of the People’s Republic of China, as led by the Chinese Communist Party, is the defining challenge for the world’s democratic states. This warrants our working more closely together,” Wu said in a virtual address at a summit held in Rome by the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China. This is an international group of parliamentarians seeking a tougher stance on China.
Taiwan is on the frontline of an ideological battle against authoritarianism, Wu said, and the world would feel the impact if China attacks the island.
“We are determined to defend ourselves,” he said in his remarks broadcast online.
Taiwan’s defence minister said this month that military tensions with China are at their worst in more than 40 years.
Fearing retaliation from Beijing, many countries are unwilling to host senior Taiwanese ministers.
Earlier this week, Wu gave a speech at a conference in Slovakia and then travelled to Prague to meet the city’s Mayor Zdenek Hrib and Czech Senate speaker Milos Vystrcil, both of whom visited Taiwan last year in a move that angered China.
Wu’s visit overlapped with a Taiwan trade delegation’s visit to Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Lithuania, which have all donated COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan.
Lithuania and Taiwan announced earlier this year that they would open de facto embassies in each other’s capitals, drawing China’s ire .
(Reporting by Sarah Wu; Editing by Frances Kerry)