March 28, 2023

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In a diplomatic coup, the President of Taiwan speaks to the Czech President-elect

  • Pavel won the Czech presidential election on Saturday
  • Pavel, Taiwanese Tsai stress their shared values ​​on the call
  • China opposes other countries’ dealings with Taiwan
  • Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway province

TAIPEI/PRAGUE (Reuters) – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen held a phone call with Czech President-elect Petr Pavel on Monday, a highly unusual move given the two countries’ lack of official relations and a diplomatic coup for Taipei. It will certainly infuriate China.

Their offices said the two leaders stressed their countries’ common values ​​of freedom, democracy and human rights during their 15-minute call. Pavel said he hopes to meet Tsai in the future.

Most countries avoid high-level public interactions with Taiwan and its president, not wanting to provoke China, the world’s second largest economy.

Beijing views Taiwan as part of “one China” and demands that other countries recognize its sovereign claims, which Taiwan’s democratically elected government refuses to do.

In 2016, US President-elect Donald Trump spoke on the phone with Tsai shortly after his election victory, which caused a storm of protest from Beijing.

Tsai said she hopes the Czech Republic, under Pavel’s leadership, will continue to cooperate with Taiwan to promote a close partnership, and she hopes to keep in touch with him.

“The bilateral interaction between Taiwan and the Czech Republic is close and good,” Tsai’s office summed up.

Pavel, a former army chief and senior NATO official who won the Czech presidential election on Saturday, said on Twitter that the two countries “share the values ​​of freedom, democracy and human rights”.

“One China” principle

Earlier, China’s foreign ministry said it was “seeking verification from the Czech side” on media reports that the call would take place.

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“The Chinese side opposes countries with which it has diplomatic relations to engage in any form of official exchange with the Taiwan authorities. During the election period, Czech President-elect Pavel said explicitly that the ‘one-China’ principle should be respected,” the ministry said.

Pavel will take office in early March, replacing President Milos Zeman, who is known for his pro-Beijing stance.

Zeman spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping this month and they reaffirmed their “personal and cordial” relationship, according to a readout of their call from Zeman’s office.

The Czech Republic, like most countries, does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but the two sides have grown closer with Beijing stepping up military threats against the island and Taipei looking for new friends in eastern and central Europe.

The centre-right Czech government has said it wants to deepen cooperation with democratic countries in the Indo-Pacific region, including Taiwan, and is also seeking to “review” relations with China.

In 2020, the President of the Czech Senate visited Taiwan and announced that he was Taiwanese in a speech in the Taiwanese parliament, addressing the late US President John F. Kennedy’s challenge to communism in Berlin in 1963.

(Reporting by Robert Mueller and Jason Hovett) Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee in Taipei; Editing by Gareth Jones

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