June 4 (UPI) — China condemned Taiwan for refusing Chinese COVID-19 vaccines on the same day the island nation accepted 1.24 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines from Japan.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Friday at a regular press briefing that Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party is at fault for rejecting Chinese vaccines for “political” reasons.
“The DPP authorities tried every means to obstruct the shipping of vaccines from the mainland to Taiwan, and even falsely claimed that the mainland was obstructing its vaccine procurement,” Wang said.
“For their own selfish political gains, the DPP authorities constantly seek political manipulation over anti-epidemic cooperation.”
Wang’s remarks come after Taiwan said Chinese-made vaccines pose safety concerns. Taipei also has accused Beijing of politicizing vaccines.
China does not recognize Taiwanese sovereignty. Wang said Friday that the “mainland and Taiwan are one family.”
“Our hearts are with our Taiwan compatriots who are faced with the grave situation,” Wang said, referring to the surge of COVID-19 infections in Taiwan, which last year was held up as an exemplar of coronavirus response.
Shipments of the AstraZeneca vaccines from Japan arrived Friday afternoon, Taiwan’s Central News Agency and Liberty Times reported.
The doses left Narita Airport Friday morning and are the first time Japan directly supplied coronavirus vaccines overseas.
Japan initially considered supplying vaccines to Taiwan through the World Health Organization’s COVAX Facility. But Japanese concerns about potential Chinese “interference” in vaccine distribution may have played a role in deciding to go ahead with a direct delivery, according to Taiwanese media reports.
Japan, the United States and Taiwan may have coordinated on the vaccine delivery.
Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun previously reported Joseph Young, chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Japan, visited with Japan-based Taiwanese representative Frank Hsieh to discuss vaccine support May 24.
Kentaro Sonoura, a former aide to ex-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, also attended, according to Taiwanese media reports.