British ex-premier Truss to visit Taiwan next week

Symposium of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), in Tokyo

LONDON (Reuters) -Former British prime minister Liz Truss will visit Taiwan next week and meet senior members of the government, her office said on Tuesday, a move that could anger China amid strains in its relationship with the current British government.

China has previously condemned visits by British lawmakers to Taiwan for interfering in China's internal affairs.

Truss, Britain's shortest-serving prime minister, took office last September, but was forced to resign less than two months later after her economic policies sparked market turmoil.

Since leaving office she has called for a tougher stance towards China, and she will deliver a speech during her Taiwan visit on May 17.

"Taiwan is a beacon of freedom and democracy. I'm looking forward to showing solidarity with the Taiwanese people in person in the face of increasingly aggressive behaviour and rhetoric from the regime in Beijing," Truss said in a statement.

Britain has warned against the use of military force against Taiwan by China. China's foreign ministry said in response that the greatest threat to peace in the Taiwan Strait was the "separatist acts of Taiwan independence and the connivance and support of foreign forces".

Truss' premiership contributed to bringing relations between Britain and China to a low point, though her successor Rishi Sunak is aiming to engage where possible with China while also raising concerns over areas of disagreement.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who served under Truss and Sunak, said he "made plain" Britain's views on issues including Taiwan in a meeting with Chinese Vice President Han Zheng on Friday, and he is expected to visit China this year.

Sunak's spokesperson said that it was a matter for individual lawmakers where they chose to travel.

"We have no diplomatic relations with Taiwan but a strong unofficial relationship," the spokesperson told reporters.

"The UK Government will continue to engage with the government of China on the issue of Taiwan."

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Christina Fincher, William Maclean)