TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday thanked British Trade Minister Greg Hands for London’s support for Taiwan after he became the latest foreign official to defy Chinese pressure and visit the self-ruled island democracy.
Tsai expressed hope for “new heights” in British-Taiwanese relations and “joint achievements” at a time when the mainland’s ruling Communist Party is stepping up efforts to intimidate the island, which Beijing claims as part of its territory.
“Let me take this opportunity to thank the government of the United Kingdom for its longstanding support of Taiwan’s international participation and for advocating for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” Tsai said.
For its part, Britain is looking to develop new trade partnerships since leaving the European Union in 2020. Hands became the first British official to visit Taiwan since that year’s start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Britain and other large countries have no official relations with Taiwan, which split with the mainland in 1949 following a civil war, but maintain extensive informal ties with the island, one of the biggest global traders and a center for high-tech industries.
Britain and China are due to take part in next week’s meeting of the Group of 20 major economies in Indonesia. Taiwan and China will attend an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting this month in Bangkok, Thailand, where Taiwan will be represented by a business leader instead of Tsai.
Other foreign officials including Speaker Nancy Pelosi of the U.S. House of Representatives have visited Taiwan to show support for its elected government in the face of threats by Beijing to seize the island by force.
On Monday, China’s foreign ministry demanded Britain stop official contacts with Taiwan, which the mainland says has no right to conduct foreign relations. China has imposed visa bans and other sanctions on foreign officials and governments that extend contacts to Taiwan.
Britain wants closer cooperation with Taiwan in semiconductors, wind energy and education, Hands told the island’s Central New Agency. Taiwan manufactures most of the world’s high-end processor chips, while Britain is home to ARM, a leading chip designer.
“Our relationship reaches beyond trade and investment as two groups of islands with strong democracies and institutions,” Hands said. “We have much in common and face many challenges as like-minded partners.”