ISIS propaganda gives Taiwan unwanted recognition

TAIPEI (AFP) - The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has given an unwanted nod to Taiwan's four-decade struggle for international recognition, displaying the island's flag and naming it as part of the "enemy coalition" fighting the group.

Provoking anger and amusement, the Taiwanese flag appeared alongside the Star-Spangled Banner in an ISIS propaganda video released on Wednesday after US President Barack Obama on Sunday listed Taiwan as one of Washington's "close counterterrorism partners" in Asia-Pacific.

Taiwan has never formally declared independence from China since their acrimonious split in 1949 at the end of the Chinese civil war and has official diplomatic ties with just 22 states.

The island normally takes every opportunity to seek powerful partners following the loss of its United Nations seat to China in 1971, but the extremist group may not have been top of its list.

Former Taiwanese premier Hau Pei-tsun said Taiwan had not involved itself in conflicts where the United States has played a historical role, in a United Daily News column Friday (Nov 27), and questioned the US decision.

"I won't comment on Obama's assertions, but to include Taiwan wasn't a well considered issue. Was our government consulted beforehand?" he wrote.

Although Taiwan is a self-ruling democracy with a fierce sense of its own identity, China sees it as a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.

Some on social media were angry at being named by Obama, while others joked that ISIS supported Taiwan independence.

"Shouldn't China go and complain to ISIS to remove the ROC (Republic of China) flag?" one commenter said on PTT, one of Taiwan's biggest online discussion forums. The ROC is the name used by Taiwan for itself, and is not recognised by Beijing.

"Is China going to attack this pro Taiwan-independence group?" said another.

Taiwan's Cabinet has increased security measures in response to the ISIS video.

"We are an open society with freedom of expression, and a democratic nation respectful of religious and ethnic pluralism, so we face lower risk of threats caused by specific ideologies," it said in a statement on Wednesday.

Taiwan's foreign ministry said that Taiwan cooperates with the US and international groups through providing humanitarian aid.