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German minister makes landmark visit to Taiwan

March 21, 2023

Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger is the first German cabinet member to arrive in Taiwan in decades. The decision comes amid tensions with mainland China, as Beijing issues a diplomatic complaint over the visit.

Taiwanese sci-tech Minister Tsung-Tsong Wu greets Stark-Watzinger in Taipei
Stark-Watzinger is the first German minister to visit the island since 1997Image: Chiang Ying-ying/AP/picture alliance

German Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger landed in Taipei on Tuesday, making her the first sitting cabinet official to visit Taiwan in decades.

To kick off the two-day visit, Stark-Watzinger signed a bilateral deal with self-governing Taiwan regarding science and technology.

"It's a great pleasure and honor for me to be the first minister heading a specialist government department to visit Taiwan in 26 years," Stark-Watzinger said in the Taiwanese capital. 

Sci-tech deal to deepen German-Taiwanese ties

"The arrangement stands for enhancing cooperation on the basis of democratic values, transparency, openness, reciprocity, and scientfic freedom," she added, referring to the newly inked Science and Technology Agreement. 

Stark-Watzinger meets with Taiwanese Minister Tsung-Tsong Wu
Stark-Watzinger and Tsung-Tsong Wu expressed hope for strong mutual cooperation on sci-tech and economic issues in the coming decadesImage: Chiang Ying-ying/AP/picture alliance

Taiwanese Minister of Science and Technology Tsung-Tsong Wu, who met with Stark-Watzinger, said her trip shows that Berlin views Taiwan as a "valuable partner."

"If we combine Taiwan's chip production capacity with Germany's applications in some advanced industries, such as biomedicine and automobiles, then it will be a win-win cooperation in the following 10, 20 years or even 30 years," the Taiwanese official said.

Taiwan is a major producer of chips used in devices such as laptops, appliances and even automobiles. Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC is reportedly holding talks with the eastern German state of Saxony regarding a potential plant in Germany.

The future of the microchip industry

The decision to visit Taiwan comes amid tensions with mainland China. Beijing denies Taiwanese sovereignty and has signaled that it could take over the island. 

China strongly condemns Taiwan trip

China said it filed a diplomatic complaint with Germany regarding the visit. 

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Wenbin told reporters in Beijing that Germany "immediately stop associating and interacting with Taiwan independence separatist forces and immediately stop using the Taiwan issue to interfere in China's internal affairs."

German politicians, along with officials from other countries such as the US, have been visiting Taiwan in recent months to express solidarity, amid fears that China could launch an invasion of the island. 

China criticizes German minister's Taiwan visit

Germany does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. China rejects official ties with nations that recognize Taiwanese sovereignty.

Germany's Foreign Ministry recently reiterated its "one China" policy, where it maintains formal diplomatic relations with China, but also close informal ties with Taiwan.

wd/es (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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