Taiwan protests after South Korea retracts invitation for minister to attend conference

<p>FILE PHOTO: A Taiwanese flag flaps in the wind in Taoyuan, Taiwan, June 30, 2021. REUTERS/Ann Wang/File Photo</p>
Taiwan's de facto ambassador to Seoul has also lodged a protest. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan said on Tuesday (Dec 21) it has lodged a protest with South Korea after a conference invitation to one of the island's ministers was rescinded over "cross-Strait issues".

The term, which refers to the Taiwan Strait, is commonly used in diplomacy to describe relations between Taipei and Beijing, which considers the island its territory to be taken one day, by force if necessary.

Taiwan's Digital Minister Audrey Tang was set to speak at a conference in the South Korean capital on Dec 16, but the island's Foreign Ministry said that was cancelled with the organisers citing "various aspects of cross-Strait issues".

"The Foreign Ministry has summoned the South Korean acting representative to Taipei to express our strong dissatisfaction over the impolite action," said spokesman Joanne Ou.

Taiwan's de facto ambassador to Seoul has also lodged a protest, she added.

China baulks at any official exchanges between other countries and self-ruled Taiwan.

It has stepped up pressure in recent years to isolate the island internationally, getting eight nations to switch diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing since 2016.

Seoul officially recognises Beijing over Taipei.

"I understand the decision was made after a comprehensive review of all related aspects," South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Choi Young-sam told reporters on Tuesday when asked about the retraction of the conference invitation.

"Our government's position remains the same, in that we will seek to continue enhancing unofficial exchanges with Taiwan."

Like Japan, South Korea is a major Western ally in Asia, but Seoul is less outspoken than Tokyo in voicing support for Taiwan.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in this month ruled out joining the United States-led diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, a decision welcomed by China.

Mr Moon said South Korea wanted a harmonious relationship with China, and cited the need to work with Beijing - North Korea's main backer - to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.