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Upcoming German minister's trip to Taiwan will deepen bilateral ties

German scholars optimistic about Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger's Taiwan visit

German Science and Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger addresses media during a press conference on 'Science Year 2022' in Berlin,...

German Science and Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger addresses media during a press conference on 'Science Year 2022' in Berlin,... (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — German Minister of Education and Research Bettina Stark-Watzinger’s upcoming visit to Taiwan will bolster bilateral ties, German scholars have said.

Stark-Watzinger will be in Taiwan from March 21-22 and is scheduled to meet with National Science and Technology Council Chair Wu Tsung-tsong (吳政忠), Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠), and Minister of Digital Affairs Audrey Tang (唐鳳). Her trip will focus on cooperation in semiconductors, green energy, EV batteries, and Mandarin education.

Stark-Watzinger is the highest-level German official to visit Taiwan since former Minister of Economy Gunter Rexrodt came in 1997, according to the Daily Mirror.

Gudrun Wacker, an expert on Taiwan Strait affairs at the Berlin-based government think tank German Institute for International and Security Affairs (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik), said that German ministers have stopped visiting Taiwan since the 1990s due to “intensified” political and economic ties with China. Though unofficial exchanges with Taiwan continued, Germany was intent on avoiding any actions that might “annoy” China, Wacker said.

She pointed out that Stark-Watzinger's trip to Taiwan symbolizes Germany’s return to normalcy after decades of self-censorship. She said that “From a Western and German perspective, Taiwan is a valued partner in every sense of the word—a model democracy in Asia that also behaves responsibly internationally."

Wacker added that deepening exchanges with Taiwan does not violate Germany’s "one China” policy.

Janka Oertel, Asia director at the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank, praised the education minister’s visit as “exactly the type of cooperation” that Germany wants with Taiwan. “It is a clear signal that these are two progressive governments that want to expand cooperation in the areas of economic innovation, high-tech, and research cooperation," she said.

Oertel said the trip also creates awareness in Germany that “Taiwan is a place of freedom, democracy, and innovation whose existence is in danger.” Public attention can help protect it, she said.

“Germany must be clear about the signals it is sending to Taiwan and China,” the director said. Any action should be about "ensuring Taiwan's security, integrating it internationally, and protecting it from violent annexation by China," she added.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs offered to set up a meeting between Stark-Watzinger and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) but Berlin declined, according to the Financial Times.