China protests Taiwan minister’s role at Seoul summit backed by U.S

By Thomson Reuters Mar 18, 2024 | 6:09 AM

SEOUL (Reuters) – China rebuked South Korea on Monday for Taiwan’s participation in a U.S.-backed democracy summit in Seoul, where the island’s Digital Minister Audrey Tang delivered an unannounced video message.

Tang told the third Summit for Democracy that Taiwan suffered disproportionately from concerted cyberattacks and the democratically governed island was willing and able to work with all stakeholders to ensure AI develops safely and sustainably.

Taiwan is a key global supplier of the semiconductor chips critical for such technology applications.

The conference being hosted by South Korea is an initiative of U.S. President Joe Biden aimed at finding ways to stop democratic backsliding and the erosion of rights and freedoms.

China, which claims Taiwan as its own, although the island rejects its sovereignty claims, said it was firmly opposed to South Korea having invited Taiwan to participate.

“There is only one China in the world,” foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jian told a regular news conference in Beijing on Monday.

“Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory.”

He urged Seoul to abide by the one-China principle and stop providing a platform for Taiwan independence forces to boost their prestige.

South Korea’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond when asked about Lin’s comments.

Conservative South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has charted a course closer to the United States. But China is South Korea’s largest trading partner, and Yoon has also tried to placate Beijing to avoid widespread economic blowback.

Tang’s participation in the event was not announced in advance by authorities in either Taiwan or South Korea.

A session programme distributed on Monday listed only a possible video message in fine print at the end, while Tang’s ministry did not flag the appearance in her daily schedule of public events given to reporters.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said Tang’s comments were made in a pre-recorded video message. The South Korean announcer who introduced Tang’s video said she was appearing in a private capacity as an expert on the issues.

A democratic, rather than technocratic approach, is ideal to tackle the challenges of artificial intelligence, such as by mobilising citizens to identify and counter misinformation, Tang told the gathering.

Tang’s invitation to Biden’s first democracy summit in 2021 also drew protest from China, while U.S. officials cut short the video feed of her remarks after a map in her slide presentation swathed Taiwan in a colour different from that of China.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park, Hyonhee Shin, and Josh Smith in Seoul, Ben Blanchard in Taipei, and Liz Lee in Beijing; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)