US sends 2.5 million COVID vaccines to Taiwan

Delivery more than triples Washington’s previous allocation of shots for the island, amid simmering US-China tensions.

Taiwanese people prepare to receive COVID-19 vaccines at a primary school in Taipei, Taiwan [Chiang Ying-ying/AP Photo]

The United States has announced that 2.5 million COVID vaccine doses were on their way to Taiwan, more than tripling Washington’s previous allocation of shots for the island, which has faced increasing political and military pressure from China.

Washington, competing with Beijing to deepen geopolitical clout through so-called “vaccine diplomacy”, had initially promised to donate 750,000 doses to Taiwan but increased that number as President Joe Biden’s administration advances its pledge to send 80 million US-made shots around the world.

China expressed fury earlier this month when US senators visited Taiwan and announced the vaccine donation amid simmering tensions between Washington and Beijing.

“Wheels up! Our donation of 2.5 million vaccine doses is on the way to Taiwan,” State Department spokesman Ned Price wrote in a tweet on Saturday.

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.

Beijing has heaped economic, military and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan in recent years and keeps it locked out of international bodies such as the World Health Organization.

Washington remains Taiwan’s biggest ally but it does not maintain full diplomatic relations with Taipei because it officially recognises Beijing.

Until recently, Taiwan had received praise for its handling of the pandemic, recording just a handful of deaths.

But cases have soared after an outbreak that began with airline pilots.

“Thank you to the #US for this moving gesture of friendship. These vaccines will go a long way toward keeping #Taiwan safe & healthy,” Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen wrote on Twitter.

Source: News Agencies