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Taiwan re-establishes diplomatic relations with St. Lucia

Taiwan re-establishes diplomatic relations with St. Lucia

Taiwan announced Tuesday it has re-established relations with the Caribbean nation of St. Lucia, notching up a small victory in its long-running battle with rival China for diplomatic partners.
Taiwan and the mainland split amid civil war in 1949. Since then Beijing has constantly pressured countries not to recognize the self-governing island, which it claims as Chinese territory.
Over the past two decades, Beijing has whittled away at Taiwan's diplomatic breathing space, reducing the island's allies to just 24 mostly small and impoverished nations in the South Pacific and Africa.
On Tuesday, however, Vice Foreign Minister Yang Tzu-bao confirmed that Taiwan had re-established ties with St. Lucia, severed a decade ago under a previous St. Lucian administration.
"The two governments of St. Lucia and (Taiwan) decided to restore full diplomatic relations effective today," Yang said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao, in a statement carried by Beijing's official Xinhua News Agency, lashed out at St. Lucia's action.
The resumption of ties marks a "brutal interference in China's internal affairs," Liu said. "We express indignation and opposition."
Speaking by video conference from St. Lucia, Taiwanese Foreign Minister James Huang said the Caribbean island's decision showed that Taiwan can overcome China's vigorous objections and increase its retinue of diplomatic allies.
"Despite the tremendous Chinese pressure brought by Beijing's (economic and political) ascent, we have secured another diplomatic ally," Huang said. "This is an indication that Taiwan is a respected member of the international community."
Huang denied that St. Lucia's decision had been influenced by the provision of large amounts of Taiwanese aid.
Over the past several years, members of the main opposition Nationalist Party and others in Taiwan have said such spending is an undesirable byproduct of constant competition with Beijing to maintain _ or expand _ Taipei's diplomatic breathing room.
They say it demeans Taiwan's democracy by forcing it to engage in shady deals which, at home, would be cause for criminal prosecutions.
The issue surged to the fore a year ago after angry mobs burned down much of the ethnic Chinese enclave in the Solomon Islands' capital, Honiara, following charges of Taiwanese intervention in prime ministerial elections.
But Taiwan's Foreign Ministry denies there is anything underhanded or excessive about the diplomatic aid it dispenses.
In 2005 it said the cost of its diplomatic activities came to 0.14 percent of Taiwan's gross domestic product _ a figure that worked out to US$462 million.
For years, St. Lucia _ a speck in the Caribbean with a population of roughly 168,000 people _ had diplomatic relations with Taiwan under Prime Minister John Compton. But after his United Workers Party was defeated by the Labor Party in 1996, St. Lucia recognized China and dropped relations with Taiwan.
But Compton's party won elections last December that returned him to power, and he said he might re-establish ties with Taiwan.
China responded by pledging more money and technical assistance to St. Lucia. St. Lucia's Foreign Minister Rufus Bousquet said Beijing's new aid package was under review by St. Lucia's Cabinet, but he did not disclose any details.
In March, Taiwan's Foreign Minister James Huang traveled St. Lucia to discuss relations between Taipei and the island nation with Compton, describing the 82-year-old as "our dear old friend," prompting a formal protest from Chinese Ambassador Gu Huaming.


Updated : 2021-04-21 17:18 GMT+08:00