Find the latest breaking news and information on the top stories, science, business, entertainment, politics, and more.

German minister heading to Taiwan, first such visit in 26 years

A government spokesman says the visit will focus on semiconductors and not the island’s sovereignty.

Germany’s education minister will make an official trip to Taiwan early next week, the highest visit by a German official since 1997 to an island that China claims as part of its territory.

Bettina Stark-Watzinger’s visit will be aimed at improving cooperation between Berlin and Taipei on semiconductors, a ministry spokesperson said Friday, adding that the issue of Taiwan’s sovereignty will not be the focus of the trip. will be.

Stark-Watzinger will visit Monday through Wednesday as tensions rise between China and the West, including over Beijing’s stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. China reacted angrily when then Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi traveled to Taiwan last year.

China views democratically-governed Taiwan as its own territory and has stepped up military, political and economic pressure to enforce those claims.

German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said the visit did not indicate a change in position when it comes to Berlin’s policy towards Taiwan, which supports the European Union’s practice of cooperating with Taipei at a technical level.

“We also have regular and close contact with China and the Chinese leaders,” he said. “The visit of the Minister of Education and Research to Taiwan does not in any way affect our position.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz reiterated before a planned trip to Japan on Saturday that he supports Beijing’s so-called “one China” policy, which states that there is only one sovereign state called China. Berlin nevertheless maintains lower-level contacts with Taiwan.

A source with direct knowledge of next week’s visit told Reuters news agency that Stark-Watzinger would not receive President Tsai Ing-wen under instructions from the German government not to irritate China.

The source stressed that the trip was a working visit to discuss areas under Stark-Watzinger’s portfolio and not directly about sending a message of support from Germany to Taiwan.

The last cabinet-level German official to visit Taiwan 26 years ago was then-Economics Minister Guenter Rexrodt, a member of the same libertarian Free Democratic Party as Stark-Watzinger. It has pushed for a harder line towards Beijing on human rights and freedom of expression.

A visit to Taiwan in January by a delegation of senior lawmakers from the Free Democrats, the smallest party in Scholz’s three-party coalition, sparked protests from Beijing.

China has ramped up its military activity around Taiwan in recent years, including near-daily air force raids on the island’s air defense zone.