Fri, Mar 22, 2019 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Taiwan unfazed by Chinese obstruction: Joseph Wu

Taiwan will continue to make contributions to the world, despite its exclusion from most international organizations because of Chinese pressure, which has only brought Taiwan and like-minded countries closer, Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu said in an interview with Taipei Times reporter Stacy Hsu

Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu addresses a news conference at the ministry’s office in Taipei on Thursday last week.

Photo: Ritchie Tongo, EPA-EFE

Taipei Times (TT): You revealed earlier this month at the Legislative Yuan that some of our diplomatic allies have shown signs of wavering. Who are those allies and what are the signs?

Joseph Wu (吳釗燮): I cannot pinpoint them because doing so would not be good for our ties, but we did notice that China has been making particular efforts [to poach] some allies. Like-minded countries like Australia and the US have noticed this too.

[China] has been making [these efforts] on several fronts. There are contacts through diplomatic channels and [an expressed] intention to increase investment and other economic exchanges. We have also noticed a higher frequency of contacts between China and the local politicians [of target countries]. These are all worrisome signs.

We are trying to collect more intelligence and to do more to consolidate our ties with those allies, but things are quite different today than what they were before.

Taiwan had to rely on itself in the past, but now, many like-minded countries, such as the US, prefer to help and their support could be quite strong sometimes.

TT: It has been a while since Beijing last poached an ally from Taiwan, with the last one being El Salvador in August last year. Are you worried about that happening again during or immediately after President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) state visit to Pacific allies? Also, will there be any new cooperations announced during her visit?

Wu: I do not think that is likely to happen, but all of our embassies are paying close attention. As for Central and South America, based on our observation over an extended period of time, [relations with] the diplomatic allies there are relatively stable and [there is] nothing imminent.

During President Tsai’s state visit, we plan to sign an agreement with Palau and Nauru on coast guard cooperation. We have already signed one with the Marshall Islands. We will also gift them with patrol vessels, but as the ships are still being manufactured, we will present them with a model during our visit. [The Pacific] is a vast body of water, but these countries’ patrol capacity is quite limited, that is why many countries like the US, Australia and Japan have also sent them patrol vessels.

TT: You and President Tsai have proposed the idea of engaging in security dialogues with Japan, but Tokyo does not seem too enthusiastic about it given recent comments by its officials. Based on your first-hand knowledge, does Japan welcome the proposal or have reservations about it?

Wu: Japan and Taiwan face many common challenges, especially non-conventional ones, which are less sensitive and there is a lot of room for cooperation. For example, natural disasters are a serious challenge we both face. Even though we have both demonstrated a willingness to come to each other’s aid in the event of a disaster, there is no institutionalized cooperation. People from both sides would enjoy an extra layer of protection if we could forge more cooperation in this area.

If we expand the scope and look at the entire region, Taiwan and Japan are not the only ones facing threats of natural disasters, so are the Philippines, Indonesia and sometimes Malaysia. Taiwan always wants to help, but what we can actually do is often limited due to certain factors. If we could join hands with Japan in offering assistance to a third country, it would benefit all the nations [in the area].

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