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Czech president-elect defends phone call with Tsai; EU repeats One-China stance

02/01/2023 02:46 PM
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Czech Republic President-elect Petr Pavel (left, image taken from and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (right, CNA file photo)
Czech Republic President-elect Petr Pavel (left, image taken from and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (right, CNA file photo)

Taipei, Feb. 1 (CNA) Czech Republic President-elect Petr Pavel defended on Tuesday his decision to engage in a phone conversation with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) a day earlier despite objections from China, saying that the Central European country is a sovereign state and "we do what we think is right."

In a Czech-language tweet, Pavel said he understood that China had "reservations" about the phone call.

"But we are a sovereign country and we do what we think is right."

Pavel, a retired general and former chairman of NATO's military committee, the alliance's highest military body, swept to the Czech presidency after a landslide victory on Saturday over former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.

He will replace Miloš Zeman, whose second term ends in March.

Unlike Zeman, who long pushed for closer relations with China and Russia, Pavel is considered a mainstream pro-Western candidate who backs aid for Ukraine.

Tsai's call to congratulate a president-elect of a country that does not have diplomatic ties with the Republic of China (ROC), Taiwan's official name, is rare for a Taiwanese leader.

Political leaders in countries that formally recognize Beijing instead of Taipei, as does the Czech Republic, normally avoid having direct contact with ROC presidents to avoid angering the People's Republic of China.

The last time Tsai publicly announced a phone call with a leader of a non-ally was on Dec. 2, 2016, with then U.S. President-elect Donald Trump. Pavel's tweet was made after Beijing condemned Prague over the call on Tuesday.

"Czech President-elect Pavel ignored China's repeated attempts to dissuade him and our repeated representations," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning (毛寧) told reporters Tuesday when commenting on the phone conversation.

"He has persisted in stepping on China's red line, seriously interfering in China's domestic affairs and hurting the feelings of the Chinese people."

"Before his election, Pavel publicly stated that the 'one China' principle should be respected, yet now he has gone back on his words," Mao added.

"China once again urges the Czech Republic to...take immediate and effective measures to eliminate the negative impact of this incident and avoid irreparable damage to China-Czech relations."

Meanwhile, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said on Tuesday the Czech Republic maintained its "one China" policy despite having good relations with Taiwan.

"Czechia respects and holds its own one-China policy," Fiala said in a statement. "As a sovereign country we decide ourselves who we have calls with and who we will meet."

The president of the Czech Republic is the head of state but has mostly ceremonial powers as the day-to-day business of the executive government is carried out by the prime minister.

In related news, when asked by CNA to comment on the Tsai-Pavel phone call and the European Union's stance on the matter, Nabila Massrali, EU spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, reiterated the EU's stance on China and Taiwan at a Tuesday news briefing.

"The EU and its member states remain committed to the long-standing One China Policy, which constitutes the framework for the EU's and its member states' engagement with Taiwan," she said.

"Within this policy, the EU and its member states recognize the government of the People's Republic of China as the sole government of China. At the same time the EU and its member states have strong ties with Taiwan, an important economic and high-tech partner in the region," she added.

(By Vicky Tien and Joseph Yeh)


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