British minister to meet President Tsai on Taiwan visit

Beijing, Nov 7 (EFE).- British Trade Minister Greg Hands will be on a two-day visit to Taiwan for the annual bilateral business talks with Taipei during which he will meet President Tsai Ing-wen.

The high-profile trip to commence on Monday comes even as China has warned Western governments against visiting the disputed island that Beijing claims as its territory.

CNA, the Official Taiwanese news agency, said Hands would co-host the 25th edition of United Kingdom.-Taiwan Trade Talks in Taipei and meet with President Tsai during his two-day stay on the island.

He will be the first UK government representative to travel to the island since the pandemic began.

The two sides conducted the annual talks, first held in 1991, virtually for the past two years due to the pandemic.

Hands will meet Taiwanese Vice Prime Minister Shen Jong-chin and other high-ranking government officials.

“I first visited Taiwan 31 years ago in 1991 and it’s been fantastic to see the growth of this dynamic, vibrant economy. I am thrilled to be the first Trade Minister here post-pandemic and to be celebrating the 25th anniversary of trade talks,” Hands said in a UK government statement.

“Boosting trade with this vital partner is part of the UK’s post-Brexit tilt towards the Indo-Pacific, and closer collaboration will help us future-proof our economy in the decades to come,” he said.

The visit is the latest in a series of such trips by officials from Western governments since United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island in August.

Since Pelosi’s controversial visit, delegations from France, Germany, Lithuania, and Japan have been to the island, ruffling many feathers in China.

The visit by Pelosi, second in line to the US presidency, angered China and triggered tensions between Washington and Beijing, which described the trip as a “farce” and “deplorable betrayal.”

China imposed sanctions on Pelosi, suspended dialog with the United States on several critical areas, and conducted military drills in the Taiwan Strait of unprecedented intensity in decades.

In his speech opening the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing in mid-October, President Xi Jinping mentioned “separatist activities seeking Taiwanese independence” and “gross provocations from abroad.”

“We will pursue peaceful reunification but we will never promise to give up the use of force as an option,” Xi said.

He vowed that “reunification will be achieved” in a statement that drew the biggest applause at the event.

The island’s Presidential Office reiterated that Taiwan is a “democratic and sovereign” country and stated that the Taiwanese “clearly reject the One country, two systems” model that Beijing would apply in the event of reunification.

China claims sovereignty over the island, which it considers a rebel province since the Kuomintang nationalists withdrew there in 1949 after losing the civil war against the communists. EFE


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