New German Institute Taipei Director-General Jorg Polster said that his country is hoping to bolster its presence in the Indo-Pacific through multilateral cooperation with regional partners, including Taiwan and China.
“This is an important region for us, and we would like to be more active, also more visible in that region,” Polster said in an interview with the Central News Agency on Friday last week.
He said that the German government is adopting a “comprehensive approach” to its Indo-Pacific strategy, which targets diversification of economic partnerships, the strengthening of international law, multilateral cooperation and security policy collaboration in the region.
To demonstrate its intentions, Germany sent its Bayern frigate to the region on Aug. 2 for six months, Polster said, adding that it would cross the South China Sea on its return journey, becoming the first German warship to do so since 2002.
The ship is to join maritime monitoring of the UN sanctions against North Korea, dock at ports in partner countries and take part in multilateral activities, the German government has said.
Polster said he has no information now about whether Bayern will pass through the Taiwan Strait during its course, adding that Germany is looking to balance its relations with Taiwan and China.
“Taiwan is an important partner, and of course, the question will immediately come: What about mainland China? This is a partner as well,” he said.
While China is posing great challenges to the region, what the German government is looking at is how it can build its relationships with China and Taiwan.
“It’s a balancing approach. It’s not either or,” Polster said.
Asked how Germany is trying to avoid getting locked in a zero-sum game in dealing with Taiwan and China, Polster said it is important to plan carefully without jumping directly into certain decisions.
For instance, the recent dispute between Lithuania and China over the Baltic state’s decision to allow Taiwan to open a representative office there using the name “Taiwan,” is among the issues the German government has followed closely.
However, no matter what policy framework Germany adopts, there is room to be flexible, Polster said, adding that communication is the key.
It is therefore regrettable to see China recall its ambassador to Vilnius over the issue, he said.
Polster said that it would have been much easier with the ambassador and the communication channel in place, “to see what happened, why it happened and what could be solutions to it.”
“So more talking, more exchange, actually, is the way to address this, and not less,” he said.
Promoting more exchanges between Taiwan and Germany would also be among his top priorities, said Polster, who succeeded former institute director-general Thomas Prinz in July.
Polster, who holds a doctorate in physics, was previously posted in Taiwan, as well as countries including South Korea, Vietnam and, most recently, India.
This story has been amended since it was first published.
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