Taiwan says virus aid sent quietly to avoid Beijing protests

Full Screen
1 / 5

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, left, is greeted by Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu prior to their meeting in Taipei, Taiwan Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. Azar met with Wu on Tuesday during the highest-level visit by an American Cabinet official since the break in formal diplomatic ties between Washington and Taipei in 1979. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

TAIPEI – Taiwan sent COVID-19 assistance to foreign countries surreptitiously to avoid protests from China, its foreign minister said Tuesday during a meeting with the highest-level American official to visit the island in four decades.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory and has sought to isolate it diplomatically, including barring its participation in forums such as the World Health Assembly.

The trip by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar comes against the backdrop of a sharp downturn in relations between China and the U.S. and Azar said in his remarks that the U.S. supported Taiwan’s participation in international health forums.

China's attempts to isolated Taiwan has compelled the island at times to keep its donations of masks and personal protective equipment under the radar, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said.

“Truth is, we even had to deliver these supplies quietly in some occasions to keep the recipients free from trouble, trouble from Beijing," Wu said.

Taiwan has brought its virus outbreak under control, and Wu said the island has donated 51 million masks overseas, including 10 million to the U.S., along with other items of personal protective equipment. He did not name the other countries to which Taiwan has made quiet donations or give other details.

Just 15 countries maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, and China has sought to peel away its remaining allies.

Wu said Chinese pressure to accept political conditions for bringing Taiwan under Beijing's control has made life “increasingly difficult."