TAIPEI (Reuters) – Germany’s education minister said on Tuesday she was honored to visit Taiwan, an “esteemed partner”, but said her trip was unrelated to her government’s strategy to -towards China.
The politically sensitive visit comes as Berlin reviews its once close ties with Beijing, which has protested the minister’s “infamous conduct”.
China regards the island state as its own territory and has increased military, political and economic pressure to enforce these claims.
Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger said while signing a technology cooperation agreement with Taiwan National Council of Science and Technology Minister Wu Tsung-tsong that it was extremely important for his ministry to promote cooperation with like-minded partners.
“This agreement aims to strengthen cooperation based on the democratic values of transparency, openness, reciprocity and scientific freedom, to name a few,” she said.
“It is a great pleasure and honor for me, a minister heading a specialized government department, to visit Taiwan for the first time in 26 years,” she added.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Germany should “immediately stop associating and interacting with separatist separatist forces in Taiwan, as well as using the issue of Taiwan to interfere in China’s internal affairs”.
Germany, like most countries, has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, although it does have a de facto embassy in Taipei.
Breaking with the policy of former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Olaf Scholz’s government is developing a new strategy with regard to China in order to reduce its dependence on the economic superpower of Asia, which constitutes until now a vital export market for German products.
(Reporting Fabian Hamacher, with contributions from Yew Lun Tian in Beijing; French version Nathan Vifflin, editing by Diana Mandiá and Kate Entringer)
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