Taiwan, Czech leaders affirm ties in defiance of Beijing

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Defying China, the president of self-ruled Taiwan affirmed the island’s ties with the Czech Republic in a phone call with the Central European nation’s President-elect Petr Pavel.

The call on Monday represents a symbolic breach of China’s attempts to cut off the already highly restricted foreign relations of the self-governing democracy, which Beijing claims as its own territory with no right to independent diplomatic recognition.

In the call, President Tsai Ing-wen said the countries “enjoy deep ties and share the values of freedom, democracy, and human rights,” the official Central News Agency said, quoting presidential spokesperson Lin Yu-chan.

“Based on these cordial ties, the government of Taiwan looked forward to deepening exchanges and cooperation with the Czech Republic in key areas, including semiconductor design, talent cultivation in cutting-edge technologies, and supply chain restructuring,” Lin was quoted as saying.

China had no immediate comment, but in past has responded with condemnation and threats of retaliation over contacts with Taiwan by politicians whose countries have formal relations with Beijing.

China in recent years has upped its threat to bring Taiwan under its control by force if necessary, prompting new sales of tanks and missiles to the island from key ally the U.S. and steps by Tsai’s administration to extend compulsory military service and bolster the domestic defense industry.

A string of visits in recent months by foreign politicians to Taiwan, including by then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and numerous politicians from the European Union, spurred displays of military might from both sides.

Taiwan has formal diplomatic ties with just 14 nations, mainly small states in the Caribbean and South Pacific, but maintains robust unofficial ties with more than 100 countries. European politicians, some of whose nations were formally dominated by the Soviet Union, have been among the most vocal in pursuing closer relations with Taiwan.

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