TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — European Parliament Vice President Nicola Beer met with Taiwan’s leader Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday and called for China to open a “mutual and respectful dialogue” with the self-governing island democracy it claims as its own territory.
Beer emphasized Taiwan’s importance “on a global scale” and called for the island to be allowed to participate in the World Health Assembly and for the European Union to upgrade its representation in Taipei.
She reaffirmed support for Taiwan’s right to determine its own future amid Chinese threats to annex the island by force, saying Beijing should “refrain from its threatening gestures” and not destroy the island’s prosperity.
“Taiwan deserves to play this role as a global, strategic, responsible and reliable international partner to the full,” Beer told Tsai.
“Only the Taiwanese people can decide on Taiwanese future,” Beer said, adding that China should “take an active and constructive part in maintaining and securing the current status quo based on mutual and respectful dialogue.”
In her comments, Tsai hailed growing economic relations between Taiwan and the EU and the passage of 20 resolutions in the European Parliament since the start of 2021 favorable to Taipei.
“On behalf of the people of Taiwan, I would like to take this opportunity to extend our heartfelt gratitude to Vice President Beer,” Tsai said.
Beer is one of 14 vice presidents of the European Parliament, whose members are elected from the EU’s 27 member states and which exercises legislative, budgetary and oversight powers over the bloc’s executive, the European Commission. Its members are known for taking independent stances on foreign relations, human rights and the environment.
Beer’s visit is the latest in a series of increasingly active moves by European and American politicians to counter China’s aggressive assertions of its global clout, including a relentless drive to isolate Taiwan diplomatically.
Beijing cut off all contacts with Taipei following Tsai’s initial 2016 election over her refusal to acknowledge that Taiwan is a part of China and her efforts to build an independent Taiwanese identity.
On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian condemned Beer’s Taiwan visit and the European Parliament’s adoption of pro-Taiwan resolutions.
“This is a grave breach of the one-China principle and has poisoned the atmosphere for China-Europe relations,” Zhao said, referring to China’s insistence that Taiwan has no right to independent diplomatic recognition.
“We urge the EU to earnestly abide by the one-China principle and be prudent on Taiwan-related issues so as to avoid serious disruptions to China-EU bilateral relations,” Zhao told reporters.
China routinely threatens economic and diplomatic retaliation over such visits, although its actual response is often muted. One exception is Lithuania, from which China withdrew its ambassador and severed trade links after the Baltic nation broke with diplomatic custom by agreeing that a Taiwanese representative office in its capital of Vilnius — a de facto embassy — would bear the name Taiwan instead of Chinese Taipei, which other countries use to avoid offending Beijing.
At the same daily briefing, Zhao warned that China would take “resolute and strong measures” should the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi proceed with reported plans to visit Taiwan.
Pelosi, who is second in line to the presidency, is due to visit Taiwan in August, according to a report in the Financial Times.
She would be the highest-ranking American lawmaker to visit the close U.S. ally in 25 years.
A visit by Pelosi would “severely undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, gravely impact the foundation of China-U.S. relations and send a seriously wrong signal to Taiwan independence forces,” Zhao said, without offering details on what actions China might take.
The White House and State Department have issued no official statements on Pelosi’s planned visit, which stands to further disrupt relations between Washington and Beijing that have deteriorated to their worst level in decades amid disputes over trade, China’s human rights record, its support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.