Asia

Taiwan gets unwanted recognition from IS

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou speaks during a press conference at the Shangri-la Hotel Image copyright AP
Image caption Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou has urged the public not to panic following the release of an IS video referencing Taiwan

Taiwan normally craves international recognition. But a video allegedly released by so-called Islamic State listing Taiwan as a member of the US-led coalition against the group has prompted fears of an attack.

Ever since the United Nations derecognised the Republic of China (Taiwan's official name) and switched recognition to the People's Republic of China in 1971, Taiwanese people have felt rejected and under-recognised.

Because China still claims Taiwan as its province to be reunified one day, the island is not a member of the UN and is not recognised as a country, except by less than two dozen small and relatively poor nations that rely on its assistance.

But this week, Taiwan received the kind of recognition it doesn't want.

A video reportedly released by Islamic State (IS) listed Taiwan's flag among 60 flags of some of the 65 members of the US-led coalition against the group.

The narrator in the video calls on the coalition members to "bring it on", threatening to let the "flame of war" burn them in the "hills of death".

The video came after US President Barack Obama named Taiwan as one of the Asia-Pacific countries in a coalition against IS while attending a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Kuala Lumpur on 22 November.

Taiwan's government quickly pointed out that the island merely provided humanitarian aid - mainly prefabricated houses and tents - to Syrian refugees. It said it has not sent troops or provided any military support.

But that didn't stop fears that Taiwan may be targeted for terrorist attacks, simply for being generous and kind towards those in need.

'Skyscraper in flames'

Following the video's release, the government ordered security to be stepped up at Taiwan's ports of entry. President Ma Ying-jeou urged the public not to panic.

This latest unexpected attention on Taiwan comes after a purportedly IS-linked Twitter account posted a picture earlier this year of the island's tallest skyscraper - Taipei 101 - in flames, signifying a threat of attack.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption President Obama named Taiwan as one of the Asia-Pacific countries in a coalition against IS

An admission from the National Security Council that 52 people listed by international groups as terrorist suspects had tried to enter Taiwan, but were denied entry, also fuelled worries. It is not clear what sort of terror suspects they were.

All this has made some people even question whether President Ma should have issued a statement condemning the 13 November attacks by IS on Paris.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the BBC the assistance Taiwan gave to Syrian refugees is part of years-long efforts to assist the Middle East's humanitarian needs. Taiwan has provided about $10m aid to the region, which has mainly helped victims of natural disasters.

"We feel it's our duty to share the international responsibility to provide humanitarian assistance where it's needed around the world," said foreign ministry spokeswoman Eleanor Wang.

"We appreciate the United States recognising our efforts."

She declined to say whether Taiwan's government has asked - or plans to ask - Washington to not mention Taiwan as one of its anti-terrorism partners in the future.

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