INTERVIEW/Germany seeking more active role in Indo-Pacific: envoy

09/04/2021 10:15 AM
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Jörg Polster, Germany
Jörg Polster, Germany's new representative to Taiwan. CNA photo Sept. 4, 2021

Taipei, Sept. 4 (CNA) Jörg Polster, Germany's new representative to Taiwan, said recently that his country is hoping to strengthen its presence in the Indo-Pacific through multilateral cooperation with regional partners, including Taiwan and China.

"This is an important region for us, and we would like to be more active, also more visible in that region," Polster told CNA in an exclusive interview on Aug. 27.

Polster said the German government is adopting a "comprehensive approach" to its Indo-Pacific strategy, which targets diversification of economic partnerships, the strengthening of international law, multilateral cooperation, and security policy collaboration in the region.

To demonstrate its intentions, Germany sent its frigate Bayern to the region on Aug. 2 for a six-month voyage, and it will cross the South China Sea on its return journey, becoming the first German warship to do so since 2002, Polster said.

The ship will join in maritime monitoring of the United Nations sanctions against North Korea, dock at ports in partner countries, and take part in multilateral activities, according to the German government.

Polster said he has no information now about whether Bayern will pass through the Taiwan Strait during its course, adding that Germany is looking to balance its relations with Taiwan and China.

"Taiwan is an important partner, and of course, the question will immediately come: What about Mainland China? This is a partner as well," he said.

While China is posing great challenges to the region, what the German government is looking at is how it can build its relationship with China as it does with Taiwan.

"It's a balancing approach. It's not 'either or,'" Polster said.

Asked how Germany is trying to avoid getting locked in a zero-sum game in dealing with Taiwan and China, Polster said it was important to plan carefully without jumping directly into certain decisions.

The recent dispute between Lithuania and China over the Baltic state's decision to allow Taiwan to open a representative office there using the name "Taiwan," for instance, was among the issues the German government has followed closely.

However, no matter what policy framework Germany adopts, there is room to be flexible, Polster said, stressing that communication is the key.

It is therefore regrettable to see China recall its ambassador to Vilnius over the issue, he said.

It would have been much easier with the ambassador and the channel of communication in place, Polster said, "to see what happened, why it happened and what could be solutions to it."

"So more talking, more exchange, actually, is the way to address this ‒ and not less," he said.

Promoting more exchanges between Taiwan and Germany will also be among his top priorities, according to Polster, who succeeded Thomas Prinz as Germany's representative to Taiwan in July.

There were many plans to boost bilateral ties before the COVID-19 outbreak, but they have been put on hold since March 2020, he said.

"I would already be very happy if I can contribute to going back where we were two years ago," Polster said.

Polster, who holds a Ph.D. in physics, has been posted in countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and most recently, India, before returning to Taiwan.

(By Chung Yu-chen and Lee Hsin-Yin)

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