European Lawmakers Seek to Upgrade Ties With Taiwan

A European Union panel called on the bloc to strengthen ties with Taiwan, the latest show of support from an expanding united front of democracies against an increasingly assertive China. 

The European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday adopted a report that urged the EU to begin work on a bilateral investment agreement with Taiwan. It also suggested the bloc rename its trade office in Taipei the “European Union Office in Taiwan,” according to a June version of the document on the parliament’s website.

Use of Taiwan’s name is provocative to China since it could be read as implying it is an independent country. China sees the democratically ruled island as part of its territory and has asserted the right to unify both sides by force, if necessary.

Beijing has for decades required states to renounce ties with Taipei as a condition of establishing relations under what it calls the “one-China principle” — leaving Taiwan with only 15 formal diplomatic partners, including only the Vatican in Europe. Taiwan’s government rejects China’s claim, asserting Taiwan is already a de facto sovereign nation.

On Wednesday, the Chinese Mission to the European Union said in a statement that the move seriously violated the one-China principle.

“These moves exceed far beyond the scope of normal nonofficial economic and trade cooperation and cultural exchanges between the EU, its member states and Taiwan, constitute serious violations of the one-China principle and undercut mutual trust and cooperation between China and the EU,” the mission said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular press briefing Thursday in Beijing that the EU should “stop provocative and confrontational moves.”

China withdrew its ambassador from Lithuania last month to protest the European nation’s decision to allow the island to open a de facto embassy under the name Taiwan in its capital. China’s foreign ministry said that move severely undermines China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The foreign affairs committees of 11 European countries and the US condemned Beijing’s efforts to punish Lithuania.

The European representatives also expressed concern over Chinese military pressure on Taiwan in the report.

“China’s continued military belligerence and gray-zone activities, as well as other dimensions of the provocation such as spying actions, cyber-attacks, talent poaching, against Taiwan poses a grave threat to the status quo between Taiwan and China, as well as to the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific region,” said the report, which will now be submitted for a plenary vote.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in statement it would closely monitor that vote, and seek cooperation with like-minded partners and countries such as EU, US and Japan, to consolidate a “global democratic camp.”

On Wednesday, Taiwan’s defense ministry warned in an annual report to lawmakers, seen by Bloomberg News, that China could “paralyze” its defenses in a conflict. China is able to neutralize Taiwan’s air-and-sea defenses and counter-attack systems with “soft and hard electronic attacks,” the report said.

Two US military ships sailed through the Taiwan Strait last Friday in what the Pacific Fleet described as a routine operation. On the same day, lawmakers from Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party called for stronger defense ties in first-of-their-kind security talks with their counterparts in Taipei. (Bloomberg)

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