Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) officials yesterday admitted the forced withdrawal of a Taiwanese delegation from a regional security forum in Indonesia this week was the result of China’s intervention.
Taiwan had been invited by the Indonesian government to attend the third Jakarta International Defense Dialogue (JIDD), held on Wednesday and Thursday, but the invitation was withdrawn at the last minute without explanation.
The British newspaper the Financial Times, which broke the story on Thursday, quoted Indonesian Major General Syaiful Anwar, one of the organizers of the event, as saying Indonesia discouraged Taiwan from attending the conference following a verbal protest from Beijing.
Delegation member Alexander Huang (黃介正), an assistant professor at Tamkang University’s Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies, said the ministry told him on Tuesday the trip had been canceled, but did not say why.
Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) said the ministry thought “there was some truth” to the newspaper report because he also suspected that China was involved.
Lin said the ministry needed to communicate with the Indonesian government to understand the reason for the abrupt withdrawal of the invitation.
“It’s much to our regret that the delegation’s two academics were not able to attend the conference. They both have strong academic backgrounds and they are acquainted with security issues in the Asia-Pacific region,” Lin said.
The other academic was Ma Chen-kun (馬振坤), a professor at National Defense University’s Fu Hsing Kang College, who attended the conference last year as a Taiwanese delegate. He declined to comment on the issue yesterday.
The two other members of the delegation were staffers at the Taipei Economic and Trade Office in Jakarta.
The JIDD incident came on the heels of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) four-day trip to the Vatican, Taiwan’s only diplomatic ally in Europe, to attend Pope Francis’ inauguration Mass on Tuesday, sparking speculation that Beijing’s action was in response to Ma’s trip.
Lin said it was more likely that the incident was “an isolated case” than a reaction to Ma’s trip because China had responded relatively mildly to his visit, although it did call on the Vatican to cut its diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
A ministry source said one reason Taiwan may have been blocked from this year’s JIDD could be that the Chinese delegation was led by a high-ranking official, Qi Jianguo (戚建國), deputy chief of the General Staff, while last year it was led by General Liu Yazhou (劉亞洲), a political commissioner at the People’s Liberation Army’s National Defense University.