BERLIN, March 18 (AFP) - German Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger will travel to Taiwan next week, Berlin said Friday (Mar 17), as the first cabinet member to visit in 26 years, a move set to spark tensions with China.
"The minister will make a two-day visit to Taiwan," a ministry spokesman told reporters.
"The aim of the visit is to bolster and expand cooperation with Taiwan on science, research and education," he said, given the Asian country's strengths in high-tech manufacturing.
The visit comes two months after a high-ranking German parliamentary delegation travelled to the self-ruled island in a move strongly criticised by Beijing.
China's Communist Party regards democratic Taiwan as its own territory and has vowed to one day take the island.
Under President Xi Jinping, Beijing has ramped up military, economic and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan because its current elected government regards the island as an already sovereign nation and not part of "One China".
The deputies on the Taiwan visit in January came from the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) - a junior partner in Germany's coalition government to which Stark-Watzinger also belongs.
The MPs had described their stay as a "sign of solidarity" with a democracy which China claims as part of its territory.
China routinely opposes official exchanges with Taiwan, and has reacted with growing anger to a flurry of visits by Western politicians.
Last year saw a spike in tensions as Beijing ramped up military pressure and launched its largest war games in decades to protest against a visit by then-US House speaker Nancy Pelosi in August.
A German foreign ministry spokesman stressed on Friday that Berlin maintains its "One China" policy while maintaining "close and good ties with Taiwan".
"Taiwan is a democracy and an important trade and investment partner for Germany which is why regular exchange and also mutual visits from ministers are completely normal," he said.