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Taiwan, not ROC, representative office opens in Somaliland

Taiwan's de facto embassy in Somaliland avoids 'Republic of China' designation

Opening ceremony for Taiwan Representative Office. (Twitter, Yasin Hagi Mohamoud photo)

Opening ceremony for Taiwan Representative Office. (Twitter, Yasin Hagi Mohamoud photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In a friendly gesture toward Taiwan, Somaliland has allowed Taiwan's newly opened de facto embassy to use the name "Taiwan" rather than "Republic of China."

On Monday (Aug. 17), Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced that the country had formally opened its representative office in Hargeisa, the capital of the self-declared East African state of Somaliland. Video released that day by African news outlet the HornDiplomat shows a formal flag-raising ceremony in which Taiwan's banner was slowly raised in front of the new office.

After the flag-raising ceremony, the camera panned to the right to reveal the name of the new facility to be the "Taiwan Representative Office." The opening ceremony was co-hosted by Lou Chen-hwa (羅震華), Taiwan's chief envoy in Somaliland, and Yasin Hagi Mohamoud, Somaliland's foreign minister.

Taiwan, not ROC, representative office opens in Somaliland
Opening ceremony for Taiwan Representative Office in Hargeisa. (MOFA photo)

The ceremony started out with a pre-recorded video of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) delivering a congratulatory message. Next, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) delivered a speech via live video feed.

Lou then joined Somaliland's foreign minister in unveiling the new plaque, which showed the office's new name is indeed the "Taiwan Representative Office in the Republic of Somaliland." Following the ceremony, Taiwan and Somaliland also signed a technical cooperation agreement.

The use of the term "Taiwan" is being favored over the antiquated "Republic of China" (ROC) because the country is seeking to better differentiate itself from China in many areas, from its national airline to its passport. The fact that Somaliland is showing deference to Taiwan's choice of this name instead of the ROC shows that it values its ties with the country and is not concerned about objections from Beijing over a name that does not include the word "China."

Taiwan, not ROC, representative office opens in Somaliland
Lou Chen-hua (left), Yasin Hagi Mohamoud (right) unveil new office plaque. (MOFA photo)

It is also a strong sign that Somaliland is looking toward long-term cooperation with Taiwan and that China's "wolf-warrior diplomacy" strategy of trying to bend the East African nation to its will has failed. The name could also potentially be laying the groundwork for mutual diplomatic recognition, with the Somaliland Chronicle on Aug. 3 reporting that President Muse Bihi Abdi has directed "close confidants" to examine ways of bolstering Somaliland's relations with Taiwan, including "the possibility of mutual recognition between Taiwan and Somaliland."

Also of interest to Somaliland is the U.S.' TAIPEI Act, which states that the American government should consider "increasing its economic, security, and diplomatic engagement with nations that have demonstrably strengthened, enhanced, or upgraded relations with Taiwan." Bihi's government may be particularly emboldened after the White House National Security Council (NSC) on July 10 posted a tweet lauding Taiwan for increasing its engagement in East Africa, with a link to a U.S. News & World Report article announcing the establishment of Taiwan-Somaliland ties.