Biden pressed over transmission cut on Taiwan at democracy summit

US President Joe Biden was accused of trying to appease Beijing at the virtual Summit on Democracy. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A leading Republican senator on Tuesday (Dec 14) demanded that President Joe Biden make amends over a cut in transmission of Taiwan's speech during last week's democracy summit, in what an official said was an honest mistake.

Ms Audrey Tang, a Taiwanese minister, was speaking last Friday at Mr Biden's inaugural virtual Summit on Democracy when the broadcast abruptly stopped.

The cut came as Ms Tang appeared before a map that showed Taiwan and China in different colours - indicative of divergent levels of democracy but possibly interpreted as recognising the island as independent, a stance that infuriates Beijing.

Senator Marco Rubio, who has championed a hard line on China, accused Mr Biden of trying to appease Beijing and questioned why Taiwan, unlike many participants, was not represented by its head of state.

"All that your administration accomplished in downgrading Taiwan's representation was to once again signal weakness rather than resolve," Mr Rubio said in a letter.

He asked Mr Biden to take steps to make amends over Taiwan including at a second, in-person democracy summit planned for next year.

A State Department official denied any intent, noting that Ms Tang's presentation can be seen online without interruption.

"There was confusion over the use of screen sharing, which resulted in the video feed being dropped. This was an honest mistake," the official said on condition of anonymity.

"We valued Minister Tang's participation, which showcased Taiwan's world-class expertise on issues of transparent governance, human rights, and countering disinformation."

China denounced the summit, saying the United States was using democracy as a "weapon of mass destruction".

Tensions have risen in recent weeks as China steps up military moves near Taiwan, a self-ruling democracy that Beijing sees as a renegade province to be reunified, by force if necessary.

Mr Biden has sought to emphasise democracy in an implicit shift from his predecessor Donald Trump, who befriended authoritarian leaders, criticised US allies and sought to overturn his election defeat.

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