The U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services is scheduled to visit Taiwan in coming days in the highest-level visit by an American Cabinet official since the break in formal diplomatic relations between Washington and Taipei in 1979. The visit by Alex Azar, will likely create new friction between the U.S. and China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory to be annexed by force if necessary.
China has accused Taiwan of “venomously” attacking the World Health Organization (WHO), seeking independence and conniving with internet users to spread racist comments, after the WHO chief said racist slurs against him had come from the island. Taiwan’s exclusion from the WHO, due to China’s objections, has infuriated the Taipei government during the coronavirus outbreak.
Taiwan’s top military official was among eight people killed on Thursday, after a helicopter carrying them to visit soldiers crashed in a mountainous area near the capital Taipei, the defense ministry said. The reasons for the crash, in the wake of a forced landing, were unknown, the military said in a statement, adding that the chief of general staff, Air Force General Shen Yi-ming, had died, while five of the 13 aboard survived.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged the people of Taiwan to accept it “must and will be” reunited with China. In a speech marking 40 years since the start of improving ties, he reiterated Beijing’s call for peaceful unification on a one-country-two-systems basis. However, he also warned that China reserved the right to use force. While Taiwan is self-governed and de facto independent, it has never formally declared independence from the mainland.
The Chinese Oscars, the Golden Horse Awards, highlighted the controversial topic of Taiwanese independence, showing a political divide between directors and actors. Documentary filmmaker Fu Yue used her acceptance speech to call for Taiwan’s recognition as ‘an independent entity.’ The chair of the committee, Oscar award-winning director Ang Lee, commented that everyone is allowed to speak freely.
The US State Department has approved a potential arms sale to Taiwan, estimated to be worth $2.2bn, the Pentagon said. The deal is for 108 Abrams tanks, 250 Stinger missiles and related equipment. China’s foreign ministry has called on the US to “immediately cancel” the proposed sale. China regards Taiwan as part of its territory which should be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.
The US Navy sailed two destroyers, the USS Stethem and USS William P. Lawrence, through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, referring to the operation as a “routine” transit. While Chinese vessels shadowed the US warships during the transit, officials said that all interactions were “safe and professional.” The Trump administration has sought to make the Taiwan Strait transits more routine, with the operations now taking place on a monthly basis. The approximately 110-mile-wide strait, which separates the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, is seen as a potential geopolitical flashpoint should Beijing ever seek to take the island of Taiwan by force.
Terry Gou, the head of the world’s largest electronics supplier, Foxconn, said Wednesday he plans to run for president of Taiwan, bringing his pro-business and pro-China policies to what is expected to be a crowded field for next year’s election. Gou announced that he would be putting himself up as a hopeful in the opposition Nationalist Party primary ahead of next year’s election, shaking up the political landscape at a time of heightened tension between the self-ruled island and Beijing.
A 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck Taiwan’s east coast, late Tuesday night, killing at least 4 people, injuring more than 200, and leaving over 140 people unaccounted for. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said she ‘ordered search and rescue workers not to give up on any opportunity to save people while keeping their own safety in mind.’
After decades of campaigning and waiting, Taiwan has welcomed hundreds of same-sex couples as they exercised their new legal rights to tie the knot. Dozens of reporters and photographers filled a registry office in Taipei on Friday waiting to capture the moment when the self-ruled island became the first country in Asia to legalise gay marriage. Some 300 same-sex couples were expected to register on Friday, according to local authorities, around 150 in the capital Taipei which boasts a thriving and vocal gay community.