Taiwan needs to get closer to the US as Beijing steps up the pressure, says ex-minister

Alexander Huang warns that island has to bolster links to Washington to counter mainland’s hostility after another ally peels away from Taipei

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 May, 2018, 9:03pm
UPDATED : Friday, 25 May, 2018, 11:48pm

Taiwan will have to try to get closer to Washington in the face of increased pressure from mainland China, a former minister from the island has warned.

Alexander Huang Chieh-cheng, a former deputy minister on Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, was speaking after the self-ruled island lost another ally on Thursday, with Burkina Faso breaking its diplomatic ties with Taipei.

Taiwan retaliated by tightening its screening of mainland officials visiting the island.

Taiwan ‘won’t tolerate Beijing’s actions’ after it loses another ally

“The most desirable thing for Taiwan is that both Washington and Beijing are kind to the island, but now Beijing has shut the door of communication,” Huang said,

His comments alluded to Beijing’s decision to suspend communications following the election last year of the independence-leaning Tsai Ing-wen as president.

Beijing regards Taiwan as a breakaway province and has never renounced the use of force to bring it back under its control.

“If you are still angry with me, there’s nothing wrong with me having a meal with others who invite me to do so,” said Huang, who is now an assistant professor with the Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies at Taiwan’s Tamkang University.

Tensions between Taipei and Beijing increased following the defection of Burkina Faso, which brings the number of Taiwan diplomatic allies down to just 18 – mainly poorer nations in Central America and the South Pacific. The West African nation is expected to shift its diplomatic recognition to Beijing soon.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Friday that Burkina Faso had made a correct decision and China looked forward to establishing diplomatic ties with it.

But Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said it would more “rigorously screen applications by Chinese officials visiting Taiwan” and would step up measures to “counter Chinese moves to divide society and create social discord”, the Central News Agency reported.

The latest cross-Strait tension coincided with a vote by the US House of Representatives in favour of the US National Defence Authorisation Act, which calls on the US to improve Taiwan’s defence capabilities to counter the mainland’s increasing military muscle.

Taiwanese aircraft tail Chinese bombers on flight around island

Huang said that Beijing “does not impose sanctions on the US”, but “blames Taiwan, although it has done nothing wrong, before “luring a number of its diplomatic allies to cut off their ties with the island”.

In another sign of heightened tensions, Taiwanese F-16 fighter jets shadowed two of the PLA’s H-6K bombers when they were flying through the Bashi Channel – that separates the island from the Philippines – in the small hours on Friday.

Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported that its air force had said it had installed an advance warning system which provided intelligence on every move made by the Chinese military in the region and allowed it to respond accordingly.