Taiwanese minister to make rare Britain visit this week

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan Digital Minister Audrey Tang will make a rare high-level ministerial trip to Britain this week where she is expected to visit government departments and meet a company specialising in low-earth orbit satellites, her ministry said on Sunday.

Taiwan views Britain as an important democratic partner despite the lack of formal ties, noting its concern over stepped-up Chinese military activities near the island, which Beijing views as its own territory, and its support for Taiwan’s participation in global bodies such as the WHO.

Tang, one of Taiwan’s most high-profile ministers internationally due to her fluent English and extensive use of Twitter, will attend London Tech Week and is expected to visit Britain’s Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and Department for Business and Trade, her ministry said.

The two sides will “exchange views on issues related to digital governance and digital industry cooperation”, the ministry added, without giving details.

Neither department immediately responded to requests for comment outside normal business hours.

Tang will also visit OneWeb, which specialises in low-earth orbit satellites, and hopes to bolster Taiwan’s communications resilience plans, the ministry said.

Taiwan’s government has been looking at plans to preserve communications if China attacks, including satellites in medium- and low-earth orbit for internet services, similar to Ukraine’s use of Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite broadband service.

OneWeb, which is nearing completion of its internet-from-space network, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tang hopes to use her British trip to deepen cooperation on government information security, investment and overall Taiwan-Britain relations, the ministry said.

Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu is expected to go to Europe this week, too, where he will attend a security forum in Prague.

The last Taiwanese minister known to have visited Britain was Taiwan’s top trade negotiator John Deng, who went last June.

Last November, Britain’s then-Minister of State for Trade Greg Hands came to Taiwan and met President Tsai Ing-wen. China denounced the trip, as it does with all such interactions.

Taiwan’s democratically elected government rejects China’s sovereignty claims, saying only the island’s own people can decide their future.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Edmund Klamann)