Taipei plans to raise profile on world stage

Pledge by newly sworn-in Cabinet bound to rile Beijing

BEIJING • Taiwan's new Cabinet has pledged to make the island a responsible and indispensable member of the international community, according to a preliminary report on its policy guidelines.

The attempt to raise Taiwan's profile internationally is certain to upset China, which sees Taiwan as a renegade province.

The Taiwanese government will aim to enhance "the Republic of China Taiwan's" international visibility and recognition, secure a foothold in Asia for the "Republic of China Taiwan", and help it connect with the rest of the world, said the report released yesterday. The new nomenclature in the report is unclear; the official name for Taiwan is Republic of China.

Taiwan will also continue to boost ties with countries such as the US and Japan, consolidate relations with its diplomatic allies, increase cooperation with European countries, and deepen ties with South-east Asia, India, Australia and New Zealand, Taiwan's Central News Agency cited the report as saying.

Dedicated offices and think- tanks will be formed to facilitate partnerships between Taiwan and Asean countries as well as India.

The policy report came a day after Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced it was planning for President Tsai Ing-wen to attend the launch of the expanded Panama Canal and go on a trip to Paraguay next month.

Panama and Paraguay are two of just 22 allies that maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

There are plans for Ms Tsai to stop over in American cities during the trip, but Washington has not yet given approval, said Taiwan's new Foreign Minister David Lee.

Earlier this week, Taiwan attended the World Health Assembly as an observer under the designation "Chinese Taipei" despite concerns that Beijing might block its attendance.

The island's new Health Minister Lin Tzou-yien said he shook hands with his Chinese counterpart, Ms Li Bin, outside the assembly chamber on Tuesday. But, in a break from what has been the practice since 2013, both sides did not meet on the sidelines of the assembly.

In the Taiwan policy report yesterday, the Cabinet said it will work to maintain the status quo across the Taiwan Strait, and build consistent, predictable and sustainable cross-strait ties.

The report followed Beijing's warning that anything that goes against the one-China principle would bring tension to cross-strait ties - the harshest since the inauguration of Ms Tsai.

Beijing's top official for cross-strait affairs, Mr Zhang Zhijun, made the comments when meeting an industry and commerce delegation from Taiwan. It was the first civic organisation to visit the mainland after Ms Tsai was sworn in last Friday.

Mr Zhang said Ms Tsai neither clarified her attitude towards the nature of cross-strait relations nor answered explicitly when pressed about her stance on this important matter of principle.

"This will certainly harm the stable development of cross-strait relations," he said in comments carried yesterday by Xinhua news agency.

"Stray from the one-China principle, cross-strait ties will be in trouble. Taiwan independence will lead to nothing but a dead end," he warned. Chinese media reported that the warning was the harshest since Ms Tsai's inauguration.

Mr Zhang also stressed the importance of the 1992 Consensus, the tacit understanding reached between both sides that year that there was only one China but that each side had its own interpretation of what that means.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2016, with the headline 'Taipei plans to raise profile on world stage'. Print Edition | Subscribe