China warns Europe against official ties with Taiwan ahead of minister's visit

FILE PHOTO: South Korea and China's flags flutter next to Tiananmen Gate in Beijing

BEIJING/PRAGUE (Reuters) -China urged Europe on Friday not to have any official exchanges with Taiwan or support "independence forces" ahead of a planned trip to the continent next week by Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu.

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky confirmed Wu was due to visit Prague next week, saying on Friday state officials were not expected to shift from their existing policy towards Taiwan.

Taiwan, which is claimed by China, has no formal diplomatic ties with any European country except the Vatican. Beijing regularly denounces any form of contact between Taiwanese and foreign officials, viewing it as encouraging global recognition of Taiwan's separate status from China.

On Wu's Europe trip, which Taiwan's government has not officially confirmed, he is expected to speak at a think-tank event in Prague immediately after Czech President Petr Pavel, Reuters reported on Thursday.

Asked about the visit on Friday, Czech Minister Lipavsky said he had "been informed" about Wu coming to Prague.

"Of course, the Czech government has a fairly clear policy on how we maintain relations with Taiwan, so I don't expect us to veer from this in any way," he said, adding he would be travelling during the visit.

The Czech Republic has no diplomatic ties with Taiwan but has built up economic and cultural relations.

Beijing views Taiwan as being part of "one China" and demands other countries recognise its sovereignty claims, which Taiwan's democratically-elected government rejects.

Speaking at a regular news briefing in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Taiwan didn't have a foreign minister, only a "head of the region's local foreign affairs department".

The "one China" principle is a prerequisite and the political basis for China to develop "friendly" relations with all countries in the world, Wang said.

"We urge the European side to understand the essence of the Taiwan issue, to abide by the solemn commitments made to China on the 'one China' principle, not to support Taiwan independence forces, and not to conduct official exchanges with Taiwan under any name," he said.

"We also want to tell the Taiwan Democratic Progressive Party authorities that any separatist acts and attempts to gain self-respect from foreigners are doomed to end in failure," Wang added, referring to Taiwan's ruling party.

Wu is also due to visit Brussels, the European Union's capital, sources told Reuters.

Wu made a low-key trip to Brussels in 2021, part of a visit to the continent that also took in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

In January, then-Czech President-elect Pavel and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen spoke by telephone shortly after his election, in a diplomatic coup for Taiwan that infuriated China.

Czech lower house speaker Marketa Pekarova Adamova told Taiwan lawmakers in March that her country and Taiwan were bound together by freedom and democracy and pledged to always stand with the island's people.

(Reporting by Liz Lee and Robert Muller; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Nick Macfie)