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10 May, 2023 03:42

Former UK premier to visit Taiwan

Britain’s shortest-serving PM has taken an increasingly hawkish stance toward Beijing since leaving office
Former UK premier to visit Taiwan

Former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss has announced plans to travel to Taiwan next week, where she will meet with top officials and deliver a speech. The move is likely to trigger the ire of China, which has repeatedly condemned junkets to the island by current and former officials. 

Truss discussed the upcoming trip in a statement on Tuesday, using the opportunity to take a jab at Beijing, which considers Taiwan part of its sovereign territory.

“Taiwan is a beacon of freedom and democracy. I'm looking forward to showing solidarity with the Taiwanese people in person in the face of increasingly aggressive behavior and rhetoric from the regime in Beijing,” she said, adding that she would meet with senior Taiwanese officials during the visit. 

While Truss resigned as prime minister last year after just 45 days in office – making her stint at 10 Downing Street the shortest in UK history – she has become an increasingly vocal critic of China since then, delivering several speeches in recent weeks that put a heavy emphasis on Beijing. 

Asked about the trip, a UK government spokesperson told the Guardian that officials “wouldn’t get involved in the independent travel decisions of a private citizen who is not a member of the government.” 

The Foreign Office was also sure to add that while the UK has “no diplomatic relations with Taiwan,” it maintains “a strong, unofficial relationship, based on deep and growing ties in a wide range of areas, and underpinned by shared democratic values.”

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry confirmed Truss’ travel plans in a statement of its own, saying she would visit the island between May 16 and 20, during which time she will tour “cultural and economic facilities,” give a speech, and “interact with people from all walks of life.”

The former PM will deliver her address at an event organized by the Prospect Foundation – a local thinktank headed up by Taiwan’s ex-foreign minister – which said the speech will be titled “Taiwan: on the frontline of freedom and democracy.” The Chinese government sanctioned the foundation last month, saying it promoted “Taiwan independence” and separatism.

Beijing has yet to comment on Truss’s upcoming visit, but has frequently denounced such trips to Taiwan, insisting nations should not keep direct diplomatic relations with the island. Last year, a visit by then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi triggered a harsh reaction from China, which launched massive military drills in the airspace and waters around Taiwan, including an exercise simulating a full blockade.