Czech Republic readies big Taiwan delegation in defiance of China

FILE PHOTO: Czech Senate Vystrcil welcomes Taiwan Foreign Minister Wu in Prague

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The head of the Czech Republic's lower house said on Monday she would lead 150 businesspeople, scientists and officials to Taiwan this week, the country's biggest-yet delegation to the self-ruled island, despite repeated warnings from China.

The Czechs' centre-right government has sought to develop relations with Taiwan which has become one of the leading foreign investors in the EU member state.

Newly elected Czech president Petr Pavel drew a sharp rebuke from Beijing in January after taking a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen, a clear shift from his predecessor's attempts to win Chinese business.

China, which claims Taiwan as its own, has called lower house speaker Marketa Pekarova Adamova's planned trip, due take place on March 25-30 after a stop in South Korea, a "wrongful decision".

"From Taiwan's perspective, this is the largest foreign visit in its modern history, and from our perspective it is the largest foreign business delegation in five years," Pekarova Adamova said.

"There was a public warning (from China), but there has not been any other act. I think our initial response was clear and strong enough."

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala defended Pavel's call with Taiwan's president in January, saying the government respected a one-China policy but could decide for itself who to speak to.

The Czech Republic does not have official ties with Taiwan. Most countries have avoided high-level public interactions with Taiwan and its president, not wishing to provoke China, the world's second largest economy.

The Czech government took power in 2021 promising to deepen cooperation with democratic partners in the Indo-Pacific region, including Taiwan, and put an emphasis on human rights, while revising its relations with China.

Pekarova Adamova's trip to Taiwan follows one by Senate speaker Milos Vystrcil in 2020. He brought around 90 people with him and proclaimed "I am Taiwanese" in a speech channelling the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy's defiance of communism in Berlin in 1963.

(Reporting by Robert Muller, editing by Jason Hovet and Andrew Heavens)