Taiwan’s foreign minister said Friday that additional foreign delegations were “more than welcome” in Taipei, insisting his government would not be discouraged by China’s furious reaction to the president’s visit last week. American Nancy Pelosi.
In an exclusive interview with VOA, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu also criticized Chinese military exercises held in response to Pelosi’s visit, accusing Beijing of “destroying the status quo” in the Taiwan Strait.
Wu said Taiwan would not be prevented from conducting its own foreign policy.
“We have to remember that if we do the right things, Chinese anger shouldn’t stop us from doing it,” Wu said. “They can always find excuses to threaten Taiwan militarily,” he added.
After Pelosi’s visit, China surrounded Taiwan for several days with unprecedented large-scale military exercises. Chinese state media described the drills as rehearsals to invade or blockade the island.
However, China’s response does not appear to deter visits from similar high-level foreign delegations wishing to show their support for the democratically-run island.
A group of senior UK lawmakers plan to visit Taiwan later this year, according to The Guardian. U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also recently said he would travel to Taiwan as House Speaker, should his Republican party win the midterm elections in November.
“Anyone who wants to come to Taiwan to show their support is more than welcome to visit us,” Wu told VOA during the interview at Taiwan’s foreign ministry.
US congressional delegations make regular solidarity trips to Taiwan, although Pelosi’s visit was the first by a US House Speaker in 25 years.
China views such displays of support as violations of its sovereignty. It indicates that Taiwan has been part of China for hundreds of years and does not rule out the force to take it back, even though the Chinese Communist Party has never ruled the island.
China’s claims rejected
China has long proposed a “one country, two systems” policy for Taiwan, which would theoretically give the island more autonomy following a hypothetical unification with China.
But earlier this week, the Chinese government released a white paper saying Beijing would offer even less flexibility to Taiwan than promised earlier.
The white paper, the first of its kind in about two decades, outlines China’s planned policies for Taiwan.
Earlier versions of the document included a line saying that China would not send troops or administrative personnel to Taiwan after reunification. This line was removed in the last iteration.
The document does not renounce the use of force to retake Taiwan but indicates that China prefers to unify peacefully. He also promised that Taiwan would maintain its “current social system” and a “high degree of autonomy”.
The white paper “reiterates many statements or principles that the people of Taiwan have no interest in,” Wu said, calling the one country, two systems proposal a “fantasy.”
“That kind of idea has been destroyed – totally destroyed – by the way the Chinese government treats Hong Kong,” Wu added.
China also promised a “high degree of autonomy” to Hong Kong when it took over the former British colony. But a sweeping national security law imposed by China in 2020 has largely eroded freedoms there.
“People here in Taiwan have watched it and…know it’s something we don’t want to accept,” Wu said.
Only 1.6% of Taiwanese support unification with China, according to an opinion poll conducted in November. An overwhelming majority also said they opposed the declaration of independence, with 85% saying they supported maintaining the status quo.
With Taiwanese public opinion firmly opposed to Beijing, some Chinese diplomats are resorting to threats. Earlier this month, China’s ambassador to France, Lu Shaye, told a French television program that China would impose “re-education” programs to inspire loyalty after China seized Taiwan.
The proposal sparked a mixture of anger and amusement in Taiwan, where residents have long had to deal with threats from China. Asked about Lu’s comment, Wu said Taiwanese citizens would “laugh it out of town”.
“Freedom and democracy are now part of our lives. And we believe it. If the Chinese government wants to change that, the people of Taiwan will say no,” he said.
The Taiwanese people, he said, understand that China is “becoming very provocative and very reckless” in its actions towards Taiwan.
China ‘destroys the status quo’
Although China announced the end of military exercises earlier this week, Wu said the threat remained, noting that Chinese fighter jets continued to cross the so-called median line in the Taiwan Strait.
The median line, which serves as a de facto maritime boundary, has for decades “safeguarded[ed] peace and stability,” according to Wu. The recent provocations near the line are a “clear sign that China is destroying the status quo,” he said.
Observers are watching closely to see if China continues the midline incursions and other provocations in the coming months. If China were to regularize its military presence closer to Taiwan, it would increase the risk of miscalculation and could reduce the Taiwanese military’s strategic maneuvering space.
During recent Chinese exercises, US aircraft carriers and other military assets have remained relatively far apart. Pentagon officials have emphasized de-escalation, saying they don’t want a war to break out. But this approach has allowed the Chinese military to get closer than ever to Taiwan, warn some Taiwanese analysts.
While Taiwan “doesn’t want to give an inch” to China, Wu said he understands the US decision to remain calm. “We do the same. We are not trying to provoke China,” he said. “We will remain calm and we will remain confident at the same time. We want to be a responsible player in this region.