Taiwan invited to annual US-Taiwan ‘Summit for Democracy’

Image copyright EPA Image caption The US President has voiced his disapproval of China’s attempts to enforce its claims over Taiwan

Taiwan has been invited to Washington’s annual ‘Summit for Democracy’ after Beijing revoked the invitation to the island’s president.

President Tsai Ing-wen had been invited to the meeting with US President Donald Trump in May.

The move reflects deepening US-Taiwan relations, but also an increasing sense of unease over the “one China” policy.

China views Taiwan as a breakaway province and is suspicious that the president wants to push for independence.

After Ms Tsai was returned to power in 2016, China suspended military drills with Taiwan and claimed to have de-escalated tensions.

Beijing described her victory as Taiwan’s “meaningless elections”, but there has been no sign of the combat rotations since then.

The decision to welcome Ms Tsai was taken in the late stages of the presidential election campaign, but last month, Ms Tsai said she had been invited.

Image copyright EPA Image caption The invitation was withdrawn by China after Ms Tsai’s election victory in 2016

The Chinese government is especially wary of any signs of favouritism towards Taiwan, a crucial US ally in Asia, and during the 2016 election campaign, Ms Tsai’s pro-independence stance was considered a “red line” by Beijing.

Ms Tsai has no formal control over the news media, so media organisations that had run endorsement stories for her candidacy were forced to retract.

Negotiations are still ongoing, but the US administration has reportedly told Ms Tsai to wait at least until November before making any trips outside Taiwan.

The Summit for Democracy, a US government-funded event co-hosted by the National Endowment for Democracy, has been co-hosted since 1993, with presidents from both the Democratic and Republican parties meeting leaders of Taiwan and Asian democracies.

Mr Trump says the event is for democracy and free speech.

He has spoken frequently about his support for Taiwan’s independence, but has declined to spell out US policy towards the island, saying it would be good to address that later.

Beijing has continued to pressure Taiwan to send a representative to the summit. In 2011, President Hu Jintao rejected invitations to the event because of his controversial pro-Taiwan policies in the past.

Taiwan has de-escalated conflict with China in recent years, but the two sides have increasingly sent military and diplomatic delegations to each other.

Last year, China recognised the East China Sea island of Senkaku as Japanese territory – despite a longstanding claim to the area.

US officials have indicated that the summit could include a discussion on the US-China trade deficit and security in the South China Sea.

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