Taiwan Government and International – August 2020

Taiwan Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph and Somaliland foreign minister Yasin Haji Mohamoud signed a bilateral agreement in Taipei in February to establish unofficial relations. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Taiwan-Somaliland Ties Established

Taiwan and Somaliland agreed this summer to establish representative offices in each other’s countries, despite multiple reported attempts by Beijing to intervene. The name “Republic of China” will not be used to describe the relationship, as formal ties have not been established. Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Joanne Ou said that the two sides will expand cooperation in the fields of public health, energy, mining, education, and agriculture under what she calls the “Taiwan Model,” which emphasizes the development of mutually beneficial substantive relations.

Although Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991, most of the international community has not recognized its political autonomy. On Twitter, the U.S. National Security Council expressed its support for Taiwan and Somaliland’s newly formed relations.

Taiwan Reopens Guam Office

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in early July that it would reestablish its representative office in Guam, after having shut it down a few years earlier. At that time, MOFA cited budgetary and human resources concerns as the reasons for closing the office. Its functions were absorbed by the Republic of China’s embassy in Palau.

MOFA explained the reopening by noting that its budget has increased in the past two years and that U.S.-Taiwan relations have strengthened significantly. The Guam office will help Taiwan “facilitate economic and trade cooperation and exchanges between Taiwan and the greater Western Pacific region, deepen Taiwan’s relations with its Pacific allies, and increase multilateral exchanges,” the ministry said in a statement.

Legislators Launch USA Caucus

Despite sparring just days earlier on the Legislative Yuan floor over the appointment of the new Control Yuan head, 71 legislators from across party lines met on July 20 to inaugurate the USA Caucus. The group’s goals are to promote friendship and exchanges between Taiwan’s legislators and U.S. politicians. American Institute in Taiwan Director Brent Christensen attended and spoke at the event, as did AmCham Taipei President William Foreman. Newly appointed representative to the U.S. Hsiao Bi-khim also made an appearance and expressed hope that the caucus would provide support for her mission in Washington, D.C.

China Sanctions Lockheed Martin

China announced on July 15 that it would impose strict sanctions on Lockheed Martin Corp., citing the multinational defense company’s estimated US$620 million sale of surface-to-air missiles to Taiwan.

The transaction marks the seventh approval of defensive arms sales to Taiwan by the Trump administration. It adds fuel to rising tensions between the U.S. and China, which has vehemently opposed all such sales. China did not specify what form the sanctions would take or how and when they would be carried out.

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Joanne Ou stated that China’s pressure on Lockheed Martin constitutes “barbaric intimidation,” and that Taiwan’s purchases of defensive weapons are necessary in the face Beijing’s continuing threats.

HK Denies Visas to Taiwan Officials

Not long after the National Security Law introduced by Beijing took force in Hong Kong, three officials of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Hong Kong were forced to return to Taiwan after the territory’s government refused to renew their work visas. One of the officials, acting Director General of TECO Hong Kong Kao Ming-tsun, was reportedly denied an extension of his visa because he refused to sign a document endorsing Beijing’s “One China” principle.

The incident sends a warning signal to Taiwan, which had recently established an office dedicated to assisting people fleeing Hong Kong after passage of the new law. Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council has argued that the legislation undermines the 2011 agreement that established unofficial but substantive relations between Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Taiwan’s government reciprocated the move by refusing to renew the visas of two representatives at the Hong Kong Economic, Trade and Cultural Office in Taipei. The Hong Kong government’s next step may be to formally shut down the TECO office there. Another possible option is for Taiwan to maintain the cultural and economic missions of the office, while discontinuing more politically sensitive functions like consular services.