Czech Senate speaker to visit Taiwan in trip that could irk China

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The speaker of the Czech upper house of parliament will travel to Taiwan with a trade mission at the end of August, potentially further souring his country’s relations with China which regards the island as a part of its territory.

The Czech Republic adheres to the one China policy, like most countries, but unofficial ties with Taiwan exist, mainly in business and science.

Any visit would infuriate Beijing, which views Taiwan as a Chinese province with no right to state-to-state relations.

“Such action is significant interference into China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state,” China’s embassy in Prague said in an email.

“It significantly breaches basic norms of international relations and bilateral political commitments and it undermines political basis for future cooperation between China and the Czech Republic.”

For Taiwan, it would be a valuable show of international support at a time when China has ramped up pressure on Taiwan to get it to accept Chinese sovereignty.

Milos Vystrcil’s decision follows a plan to visit Taipei by his predecessor as Senate speaker, Jaroslav Kubera. Kubera died in January before he could make the trip.

A document sent by China's Embassy in Prague to the Czech president's office in January suggested that Czech companies operating in mainland China, such as Volkswagen VOWG_p.DE subsidiary Skoda Auto or lender Home Credit, would suffer if Kubera visited the self-ruled island.

Vystrcil, member of the centre-right opposition, said on Tuesday he was motivated by business development and the country’s tradition of human rights policies.

“We will either stick to our principles or count pennies. I am leaning toward keeping our values and principles,” he told a news conference.

Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou expressed her “sincere welcome” to Vystrcil.

Vystrcil’s trip would also irk Czech President Milos Zeman, who has for years tried to build relations with China.

Reporting by Robert Muller; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Alison Williams and Lisa Shumaker