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China alleges Taiwan plan to supply allies from own vaccine stockpile during shortage

Foreign ministry rebuts Chinese state-run media allegation Taiwan pledged 300,000 COVID doses to diplomatic allies

MOFA Spokesperson Joanne Ou

MOFA Spokesperson Joanne Ou (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — China has accused the Taiwan government of secretly planning to dip into its vaccine stockpile to supply diplomatic allies despite the nation’s own desperate vaccine shortage.

Citing only an "exclusive source," Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece the Global Times wrote Saturday night (June 6) that the Taiwanese authorities had pledged 300,000 AstraZeneca doses to an unspecified number of allies "like Honduras and Paraguay," even as Taiwan struggles to secure enough shots for its own people. The article alleged that the country’s "secession-minded" ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had bribed government officials in those countries to pave the way for the deal.

The accusation came as the nation again reported hundreds of new coronavirus cases as well as a single-day record of 37 deaths.

The Global Times pointed out that Taiwan, which was praised worldwide for keeping the virus at bay for over a year, is now experiencing a severe vaccine shortage. The reason for this dilemma, it added, is the DPP's rejection of China's offer to provide its vaccines.

It went on to gloat that Taiwan’s domestic vaccines currently in development are "still in phase II clinical trials, far away from phrase III and nowhere near being finalized to be given to local residents."

For Taiwan, 300,000 shots would be a significant chunk of its current supplies, even after Japan's gift of 1.24 million AstraZeneca doses Friday (June 4) which nearly doubled the number Taiwan has obtained thus far.

Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Joanne Ou (歐江安) called the Global Times report "completely fictitious and fabricated out of thin air," stating that vaccines should not be used as political tools, as they are critical for saving lives. Calling Chinese state media the CCP's "external lie system," she blasted the steady flow of disinformation from Beijing aimed to sow confusion and "divide the Taiwanese people and government."

Ever on the lookout for opportunities to lure away Taiwan’s allies, China has in recent months targeted both Honduras and Paraguay with its vaccine diplomacy as the Latin American countries grapple with COVID spikes.

Vexed by the disparity in vaccine availability between rich and poor countries, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez said last month that he would heed China's advice to build a "diplomatic bridge,” saying Honduras may open a trade office in China to secure doses.

Paraguayan President Mario Benitez, however, publicly rebuffed Beijing's effort to leverage its vaccine surplus to get Asuncion to abandon Taipei, saying, "We're not going to accept any kind of blackmail for vaccine purchases." Taiwan in April announced it would bankroll the purchase of 2 million doses of India-developed vaccine Covaxin for Paraguay.

As for Taiwan's own supplies, the country has purchased nearly 20 million doses from AstraZeneca, Moderna, and COVAX, enough for about 43 percent of its population, but shipments do not exceed hundreds of thousands of doses and are infrequent, while the daily death toll from COVID-19 continues along an upward trajectory. Only about 3 percent of the population has received at least one vaccine dose.

In a display of American support, three U.S. senators on Sunday (June 6) arrived in Taiwan. During their three-hour visit, they pledged 750,000 vaccine doses to the country out of an initial tranche of 25 million that Washington is preparing to ship to nations deemed most in need.

The Global Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Updated : 2021-06-21 13:04 GMT+08:00