TAIPEI -- Diplomacy has never been easy for Taiwan and is becoming ever more complex as it is caught between the United States under an unpredictable leader and an increasingly assertive China, which claims the self-ruling island as its own.
In her strongest statement yet over pressure from China, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen blamed Beijing after Burkina Faso severed ties Thursday with Taipei.
Tsai said China was showing insecurity over “more substantial developments in relations between Taiwan and the US, and other like-minded countries”.
The US remains democratic Taiwan’s most powerful ally and leading arms supplier, although it gave up official diplomatic ties in 1979 to recognise Beijing.
In recent months, it has made a series of new overtures — President Donald Trump signed a symbolic bill paving the way for mutual visits by high-level officials and Washington gave long-awaited approval for a licence necessary to sell submarine technology to Taiwan.
Yet while Taiwan’s relationship with the US is essential to its security, it must also guard against riling China, its biggest military threat but also the dominant market for the island’s export-driven economy.
Beijing officials have described ramped-up Chinese military drills near Taiwan as a warning against asserting its sovereignty. Analysts say they are also a message to Washington.
Foreign minister Joseph Wu — whose resignation over Burkina Faso was rejected by Tsai — said earlier this month that furthering Taiwan-US relations must be done “in a very cautious manner.”
He described the government as seeking to “advance bilateral interests without creating any kind of trouble for anyone else.”
While Taiwan calls itself a sovereign country, the island has never formally declared a split from the mainland and China sees reunification as its eventual goal.
Since Tsai came to power two years ago, Beijing has become increasingly hostile and is highly suspicious of her traditionally pro-independence party.