EXCLUSIVE US triples vaccines for Taiwan with delivery of 2.5 million doses
WASHINGTON, June 19 (Reuters) – The United States on Saturday shipped 2.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Taiwan, more than triple the previous vaccine allocation from Washington for the island, which faced growing political and military pressure from China.
Washington, competing with Beijing to deepen its geopolitical influence through so-called “vaccine diplomacy,” initially pledged to donate 750,000 doses to Taiwan, but increased that number as President Joe Biden’s administration pledges to send 80 million American-made shots around the world. Read more
China, which sees Taiwan as an integral part of its territory, has repeatedly offered to send vaccines against the coronavirus to the island, which is facing a spike in domestic infections. Taipei has expressed concerns about the safety of Chinese fire.
The given 2.5 million doses of the Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) vaccine were due to leave Memphis, Tennessee, on a flight owned by Taiwanese airline China Airlines early Saturday and arrive in Taipei on Sunday evening, a senior official told Reuters of the American administration. noting that the prompt delivery was due to the fact that the experts from both sides were able to resolve the regulatory issues.
State Department spokesman Ned Price then tweeted that the plane carrying the vaccines had left.
“We do not allocate these doses, or do not deliver these doses, based on political or economic conditions. We are giving these vaccines for the sole purpose of saving lives,” the senior official said.
“Our vaccines do not come with conditions,” the official said, adding that Taiwan had “faced unfair challenges in its efforts to acquire vaccines on the global market.”
A deal for Taiwan to purchase vaccines from Germany’s BioNTech SE (22UAy.DE) failed this year, with the Taiwan government blaming pressure from Beijing.
China has denied the accusation, saying Taiwan is free to obtain the vaccines through Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co Ltd (600196.SS), which has a contract to sell BioNTech’s vaccine in China, Hong Kong. , Macau and Taiwan.
“We believe that these attempts by China to block purchases, for political purposes, are reprehensible,” said senior administration official Biden.
Taiwan is trying to speed up the arrival of millions of vaccines on order, although infections remain relatively low despite an increase in national cases. Only about 6% of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people have received at least one injection of the vaccine. Read more
The US shipment comes at a time when Washington is working with Taipei to create secure supply chains for strategic items such as computer chips, of which Taiwan is a key producer, which are vital to US automakers and others. industries.
It also comes after Taiwan announced on Friday that it would allow Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of Foxconn (2317.TW) and semiconductor giant TSMC (2330.TW), to negotiate on its behalf for vaccines against the COVID-19. Read more
Taiwan Presidential Office spokesman Xavier Chang said Washington’s vaccine aid confirms “the rock-solid friendship between Taiwan and the United States.”
Jonathan Fritz, a senior State Department official, said Thursday that China had “very aggressively used vaccine donations as leverage to get more of Taiwan’s diplomatic partners to change recognition.” Read more
Beijing has steadily reduced the number of diplomatic allies of Taiwan, which now has just 15 countries.
The United States, which like most countries does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, has watched with concern escalating tensions with Beijing, and the Biden administration has pledged to strengthen ties with it. island, which it is required under United States law to provide with the means of defense. Read more
Earlier this week, Taiwan reported the Chinese Air Force’s largest incursion to date, including nuclear-capable fighters and bombers, into its air defense identification zone. Read more
Reporting by Michael Martina, David Brunnstrom and Andrea Shalal in Washington; Editing by Mary Milliken and Daniel Wallis
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