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German minister to visit Taiwan, first such trip in 26 years

March 17, 2023

Bettina Stark-Watzinger is set to be the first German Cabinet minister to visit Taiwan since 1997, a trip likely to irk Beijing. Her meetings with Taiwanese officials are expected to focus on semiconductors.

German Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger
German Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger will visit Taiwan next weekImage: Carsten Koall/dpa/picture alliance

German Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger is due to visit Taiwan next week, her ministry said on Friday. 

Her trip marks the first visit by a German Cabinet minister to Taiwan since 1997. 

The visit has the potential to upset Beijing, which considers the self-ruled island to be a renegade province of China.

What do we know about the visit?

A spokesperson for the German Education Minister said talks during the trip would focus on improving cooperation between Berlin and Taipei on semiconductors.

"The minister will make a two-day visit to Taiwan," a ministry spokesman told reporters.

"The aim of the visit is to bolster and expand cooperation with Taiwan on science, research, and education," he said, given Taiwan's strengths in high-tech manufacturing.

However, Berlin sought to argue that Taiwan's sovereignty was not the issue of the visit. The German Foreign Ministry said that it simultaneously upheld the so-called One China policy — namely Beijing's insistence that all its trade partners do not hold formal diplomatic relations with Taipei — but said Germany also maintains "close and good ties with Taiwan."

"Taiwan is a democracy and an important trade and investment partner for Germany which is why regular exchange and also mutual visits from ministers are completely normal," the Foreign Ministry said on Friday. 

'More than China': Germany rethinks Asia

How does China react to such visits to Taiwan? 

Beijing has repeatedly reacted with anger over foreign diplomatic exchanges with Taiwan. 

In January, a delegation of German lawmakers visited Taiwan, prompting protests from China.

China also strongly condemned a visit to Taiwan by then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last year as a threat to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. Pelosi's trip was the highest-level US visit to the island in 25 years. 

In protest, Beijing then launched its largest war games in decades

Wu: China aiming for 'reunification'

fb/msh (AFP, Reuters) 

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