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Germany plans Taiwan visit at highest level in decades – Reuters

The federal minister would try to avoid meetings with senior officials so as not to irritate Beijing

Germany’s education minister announced plans to visit Taiwan in the coming days, the first trip to the island by a senior federal official in some 26 years. Although China is likely to condemn the junket, Berlin said it did not signal any major policy changes against the People’s Republic.

Education and Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger will travel to Taipei next week for a two-day visit, a spokeswoman for her ministry said Friday, noting that the trip would focus on cooperation on computer chips and green technologies.

Although Taiwan has offered that Stark-Watzinger meet with Foreign Minister Joseph Wu while on the island, Berlin “repelled” upon request and would only sit down with lower-level officials, the Financial Times reported, citing several people familiar with the negotiations. Another source reached by Reuters said the minister would not see President Tsai Ing-wen either. “on the instructions of the German government”, who seeks to “avoid irritating China too much.”

Germany’s “One China” policy stipulates that any delegation sent to Taiwan should be limited to specialized ministers whose functions are unrelated to sovereignty issues, with the exception of visits by the chancellor, as well as interior ministers, foreign affairs or defence. The last trip by a German federal minister was in 1997, although lawmakers have visited the island numerous times since, up to and including this year.

Although Taiwan has been de facto self-governing since the losing side of the Chinese Civil War fled to the island and established its own administration in 1949, China considers the island part of its sovereign territory and generally disapproves any official contact between Taipei and foreign officials.

A spokesman for Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Steffen Hebestreit, stressed that the upcoming visit does not indicate any change in relations with Beijing.

“The fact that the Minister of Education and Research is going to Taiwan in no way calls into question our policy,” he added. he told reporters.

Scholz issues a warning to China

Stark-Watzinger’s trip comes just weeks before German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock plans to visit Beijing, with multiple sources telling FT she will be there in April or May. However, an unnamed German diplomat quoted by the media questioned the wisdom of scheduling the two trips so close to each other.

“On the one hand, we send [Baerbock to Beijing]…and on the other hand, a minister goes to Taiwan first – what kind of message are we sending them? they said.

While Germany and China are major trading partners, there are signs of growing tensions between the two nations. Berlin is currently developing a new national security strategy which should qualify the People’s Republic as “systemic rival” according to Bloomberg, while Scholz recently warned that Beijing will face “consequences” if it is supplying weapons to Russia amid the conflict in Ukraine.

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