Taiwan foreign minister to make Europe trip next week -sources

By Ben Blanchard and Robert Muller

TAIPEI/PRAGUE (Reuters) -Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu will make a previously unannounced visit to Europe next week, four sources briefed on the matter said, and is expected to appear with the Czech president at one event in a diplomatic breakthrough.

Taiwan, which is claimed by China, has no formal diplomatic ties with any European country except the Vatican. Beijing regularly denounces any form of contact between Taiwanese and foreign officials, viewing it as encouraging global recognition of Taiwan’s separate status from China.

But there are extensive informal relations, and Central and Eastern European countries have been particularly keen to show support for Taiwan – especially following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – defying Beijing’s anger about such contacts and lessening Taiwan’s international diplomatic isolation.

Two of the sources, who like the others spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to speak with the media, said Wu was expected visit Brussels, headquarters of the European Union, but declined to give details.

Two of the other sources said he would also visit Prague.

Wu will attend a security conference in Prague on June 14, and is due to speak immediately after Czech President Petr Pavel opens the event. This would be highly unusual given European leaders generally do not share the stage with senior Taiwanese officials, one of the sources said.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry declined to comment on Wu’s Europe travel plans. Pavel’s office did not answer calls seeking comment.

The European External Action Service, the EU’s foreign affairs arm, declined to comment on the Brussels plans, saying: “It is not for us to communicate about third partners’ visits and activities”.

China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wu made a low-key trip to Brussels in 2021, part of a visit to the continent that also took in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, where he spoke at a think-tank event in Bratislava and met local officials including Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib.

Wu also visited Europe in 2019, speaking at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit in Denmark.

In January, then-Czech President-elect Pavel and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen spoke by telephone shortly after his election, in a diplomatic coup for Taiwan that infuriated China.

Beijing has been most angered by Lithuania’s decision to allow Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in Vilnius in 2021 and has downgraded diplomatic ties with Lithuania and pressured multinationals to sever links with the nation of 2.8 million people.

Beijing views Taiwan as being part of “one China” and demands other countries recognise its sovereignty claims, which Taiwan’s democratically-elected government rejects.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Robert Muller; Additional reporting by Ryan Woo in Beijing and Andrew Gray in Brussels; Editing by Angus MacSwan)