Czech president tries to ease Chinese anger after visiting Taiwan

PRAGUE (Reuters) – President Milos Zamán on Sunday demanded the Czech Senate chief to avoid a row with China on a visit to Taiwan, calling the speaker’s visit a “childish provocation”.

File photo: Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil attends a news conference in Taipei, Taiwan, September 3, 2020. REUTERS / Ann Wang

Senate Speaker Milos Vistkoil made headlines last week when he echoed Taiwan’s Parliament Speaker John F. Kennedy’s speech in Berlin in 1963 echoing Communist defiance in Berlin as “I’m a Taiwanese”.

Vystrcil’s visit did not have the backing of the Czech government, which dictates foreign policy, and China was angered, saying the Czech speaker “would pay a steep price” to visit the democratic island it sees as its territory .

This prompted Prague to call China ambassador.

Zaman has sought closer trade and political ties with China since taking office in 2013, but his efforts have been overshadowed by failed investment plans and splitting politicians.

Zeman said in an interview on broadcaster Prima on Sunday that he would stop inviting Wistyskiel to meetings with the state’s top foreign policy officials, and said his visit could be detrimental to firms but China’s remarks were exaggerated.

“I consider it childish excitement,” Zaman said of the trip.

Prime Minister Russian Babis said that later in the same debate show he would fight to stop the decline for Czech companies.

Like most countries, the Czech Republic has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, although Taiwan is a large investor in the country.

Many Czech companies export or operate China, the world’s second largest economy. The richest Czech Petr Keller’s Home Credit is a major consumer lender in China, while the country is the largest single market for Skoda Auto, Volkswagen’s Czech car unit.

Reporting by Jason Howat; Editing by Raisa Kasolowski

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