A high-ranking parliamentary delegation from Germany said they were traveling to Taiwan on Sunday, ahead of an anticipated ministerial visit later this year in moves that could spark tensions with China.
Johannes Vogel of the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) a junior partner in Germany’s coalition government posted a picture on Twitter of him and party colleague Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann on “the plane to Taiwan”.
The visit was a gesture of “solidarity” with the self-ruled democracy which China claims as part of its territory, Strack-Zimmermann, the head of the parliamentary defense committee, told AFP on Thursday.
The trip is set to be followed by a visit from German Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger, also of the FDP, in the spring, sources told AFP.
It would be the first by a member of the German cabinet in 26 years.
The delegation would meet with representatives of Taiwan’s government and the opposition, as well as human rights organizations, business leaders and military members during its stay, Strack-Zimmermann said ahead of the trip.
Berlin’s diplomatic overtures to Taiwan are likely to rile Beijing.
President Xi Jinping, China’s most assertive leader in a generation, has made clear that what he calls the “reunification” of Taiwan cannot be passed on to future generations.
Last year saw a spike in tensions as Beijing ramped up military pressure and launched its largest war games in decades to protest against a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in August.
China opposes any official exchanges with Taiwan, and has reacted with growing anger to a flurry of visits by Western politicians to the island.
Also in August, the German air force boosted its presence in the Indo-Pacific with the deployment of 13 military aircraft, one year after it dispatched a frigate to the region for the first time in almost two decades.