Liz Truss says Taiwan ‘must be defended’
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Speaking to Sky News Kay Burley for the third and final Tory leadership televised debate, Ms Truss claimed there is a “long-standing position” held by the Government that the PM should “not visit Taiwan”. Asked by Ms Burley if she would follow in the footsteps of the “strong and influential” figure of US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and visit the island nation currently under threat from China, Ms Truss responded bluntly, saying simply: “No”.
Ms Burley asked: “We’ve seen Nancy Pelosi, another strong, influential woman, in Taiwan this week. Will you visit Taiwan if you become Prime Minister?”
Ms Truss paused for a moment as she considered her answer, beginning to give Ms Burley an elongated response before Ms Burley interrupted, saying: “It’s a yes or no question.”
Ms Truss then said: “No. We have a long-standing position: the foreign secretary, the ministry of defence and the Prime Minister do not visit Taiwan.”
Ms Truss did not elaborate on the reasons behind that position but did pledge support Taiwan in the face of the threat of Chinese invasion, adding that it “must be defended” from autocratic rulers such as President Xi Jinping.
Earlier, Ms Burley asked, given Ms Truss comments last month about needing to have armed Ukraine sooner, should the UK be arming Taiwan.
Ms Truss said: “We need to make sure that democracies like Taiwan are defended and yesterday I put out a statement with my fellow G7 foreign ministers about the very difficult situation in Taiwan and concern about the escalatory rhetoric we are hearing from China.
“Of course, we have a very secure control system for exports in the UK and we do licence exports to Taiwan, exports that are provided by the private sector. We already licensed equipment to go to Taiwan.
“That is as far as we will go at this stage but we are working very closely with our allies on this because there are countries like the US and Japan that are also extremely concerned about the future of Taiwan.”
However, Ms Truss’ comments appear to be a rollback of comments made by her earlier in the year in which she urged the UK to start supplying weapons to Taiwan.
At the end of June, Ms Truss appeared before a foreign affairs committee and suggested “the sooner [we send weapons to Taiwan] the better”.
She said: “There is always a tendency, and we’ve seen this prior to the Ukraine war, of wishful thinking, to hope more bad things won’t happen and to wait until it is too late.
“We should have done things earlier, we should have been supplying defensive weapons into Ukraine earlier. We need to learn that lesson for Taiwan. Every piece of equipment we have sent takes months of training, so the sooner we do it the better.”
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The Chinese threat to invade Taiwan has been long-standing but of late has come to the fore following a visit from US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a move which the Chinese viewed as US interference with their sovereign right over Taiwan.
Taiwan is currently facing hundreds of Chinese military planes and warships operating dangerously close to the Taiwanese border and even crossing into its airspace. Taiwanese officials claimed that 22 Chinese military aeroplanes crossed into their airspace, which they believe violates their sovereign rights.
China has put their military on high alert following this visit and pledged retaliatory measures.
The island nation has long been on the list of Chinese President Xi Jinping most wanted as the autocratic, Communist leader seeks to reunify the nation with the mainland.
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