German minister on first official visit to Taiwan in 26 years

This handout picture taken and released by Taiwan’s National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) on March 21, 2023, shows German Minister of Education and Research Bettina Stark-Watzinger (R) posing for photographs with her Taiwanese counterpart Wu Tsung-tsong (L), Minister of Science and Technology, during a signing ceremony at the NSTC in Taipei. — AFP
  • Germany signs Science and Technology Agreement with Taiwan.
  • Beijing views self-ruled democratic island as its territory.
  • Watzinger declines to comment on reported Chinese opposition to visit.

TAIPEI: Germany’s education minister on Tuesday inked a technological cooperation deal with Taiwan, kicking off the first cabinet-level German visit to the island in 26 years.

Bettina Stark-Watzinger signed the Science and Technology Agreement with Taiwan’s National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) on the first day of a trip that is likely to draw criticism from China.

Beijing views the self-ruled democratic island as its territory, to be taken one day — by force if necessary. China routinely opposes official exchanges between Taiwan and its international partners.

It has ratcheted up military, diplomatic and economic pressure in response to a flurry of visits by politicians from the United States, Europe and elsewhere to Taiwan.

At the signing ceremony in Taipei, Stark-Watzinger said “it is a great pleasure and honour” for her to be the first German government minister to visit in more than two decades.

“This arrangement stands for enhancing cooperation on the basis of democratic values, transparency, openness, reciprocity and scientific freedom,” she said.

Her trip comes two months after a high-ranking German parliamentary delegation travelled to Taiwan, a move that was strongly criticised by Beijing.

Stark-Watzinger declined to comment when asked about reported Chinese opposition to the visit.

Germany’s foreign ministry last week reaffirmed its commitment to a “one China” policy, wherein it has formal bilateral ties with Beijing, but also maintains “close and good ties with Taiwan”.

Wu Tsung-tsong, head of the NSTC, said the trip was part of “normal” exchanges.

The agreement covers joint research in several fields, Wu said, including semiconductors and artificial intelligence.

According to media reports, Taiwanese tech giant TSMC, the world’s largest contract chipmaker, is currently in talks to build its first European plant in Germany.

In December, the company said that there was “no concrete plan” for setting up facilities in Germany.

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