The United States will ship 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Taiwan on Saturday, more than tripling Washington’s previous allocation of shots for the island, which has faced increasing political and military pressure from China.
China, which considers Taiwan an integral part of its territory, has repeatedly offered to send coronavirus vaccines to the island, which has been battling a spike in domestic infections. Taipei has expressed concern about the safety of Chinese shots.
The 2.5 million donated doses of the Moderna Inc vaccine will leave Memphis, Tennessee, on a flight belonging to Taiwan’s China Airlines early on Saturday and arrive in Taipei on Sunday evening, the senior U.S. administration official said, adding that the prompt delivery was due to experts from both sides being able to work out regulatory issues.
“We are not allocating these doses, or delivering these doses, based on political or economic conditions. We are donating these vaccines with the singular objective of saving lives,” the official said.
It also comes after Taiwan announced on Friday that it will allow Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of Taiwan’s Foxconn and semiconductor giant TSMC, to negotiate on its behalf for COVID-19 vaccines.
“Our vaccines do not come with strings attached,” the official said, adding Taiwan had “faced unfair challenges in its efforts to acquire vaccines on the global marketplace.”
Jonathan Fritz, a senior State Department official, said on Thursday that China had been “very aggressively using vaccine donations as a lever to induce more of Taiwan’s diplomatic partners to switch recognition.”
Beijing has steadily whittled down the number of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, which now stands at just 15 countries.
The United States, which like most countries has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, has watched with alarm the stepped up tensions with Beijing and Biden’s administration has vowed to boost ties with the island, which it is required under U.S. law to supply with the means of defense.
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