Taipei’s ties with ally Vatican ‘on solid ground’ despite hints of Beijing thaw

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 August, 2016, 11:36pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 August, 2016, 11:36pm

The Vatican’s hopes for better ties with Beijing should not rattle ­Taipei because the island’s ­relations with the papal state will remain solid, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said on Sunday.

The remarks came after hints of a possible thaw between Beijing and the Vatican prompted ­analysts and lawmakers to urge the government of President Tsai Ing-wen to be on alert to preserve relations with the Holy See.

On Saturday, Vatican Sec­retary of State Cardinal Pietro ­Parolin said there was “much hope and expectation that there will be new developments and a new season in relations with China”. But he also said one had to be “realistic and accept there are a number of problems that need ­resolving between the Holy See and China and that often, because of their complexity, they can ­generate different points of view”.

All we should do is to look at the issue in a positive ­manner
Taiwanese deputy foreign minister Wu Chih-chung

Taiwanese deputy foreign minister Wu Chih-chung said ­on Sunday that Taipei should take a positive view of possible ­dialogue between Beijing and the Vatican. “All we should do is to look at the issue in a positive ­manner,” Wu said.

Asked if Taiwan’s ties with the Vatican would be affected by ­better relations between Beijing and the Holy See, Wu said: “There is no need to turn it into a zero-sum game. If [the Vatican] wants to be friendly to [Beijing], it does not necessarily mean it will sever ties with us.”

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He said for the foreseeable ­future, Taiwan’s relations with the Vatican would remain stable and solid.

He added that Vice-President Chen Chien-jen’s plan to visit the Vatican as special envoy for the canonisation of Mother Teresa next month had not changed, pointing to stable relations between Taiwan and the Holy See.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it would continue to pay close attention to the development in relations between Beijing and the Vatican. It also stressed long-term cooperation and close exchanges between Taiwan and the Vatican.

The Vatican is one of 22 states that recognise Taipei instead of Beijing. The Holy See cut ties with Beijing in 1951 after a Communist Party crackdown on organised religion.

The Vatican has been seeking formal ties with Beijing since 2007, though talks have been bogged down by Beijing’s insistence that the Vatican not interfere in religious matters on the mainland and that it sever ties with Taiwan in line with Beijing’s “one China” policy.

Beijing, Vatican reach initial accord on appointment of bishops, Hong Kong cardinal says

In a lengthy article in the ­diocese publication Kung Kao Po on August 5, Cardinal John Tong Hon said the Vatican and Beijing had reached an initial agreement on the appointment of Catholic bishops on the mainland.

Former deputy defence minister Lin Chong-pin said Taiwan should be well prepared for any fallout if the Vatican established formal ties with Beijing.

Lawmakers also said the ­government should not underestimate the Vatican’s desire for ties with Beijing. “The security authorities must prepare for all kinds of possibilities, including dual ­recognition,” Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Huang Wei-che said.

Additional reporting by Reuters