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Minister says ‘Saint Lucia has no issues’ with China or Taiwan

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ECONOMIC Development Minister Guy Joseph says although St. Lucia is ‘a sovereign nation which determines its foreign policies’, it has ‘no issues with Taiwan or China’.

Joseph was responding to reporters on the recent termination of diplomatic relations between Taiwan and the Dominican Republic.

The Dominican Republic recently switched allegiance to China, after 77 years with Taiwan.

On May 1st, the Dominican Republic and China announced the establishment of diplomatic ties.

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A subsequent release from the Taiwanese embassy said, “This was the result of China’s efforts in offering vast financial incentives for the Dominican Republic to end their 77 years of diplomatic relations with Taiwan.”

“It also follows China’s actions last year in establishing diplomatic relations with Panama,” it added.

The release said the Taiwan government “is deeply upset by China’s actions” and also similarly announced “the termination of relations with the Dominican Republic, effective immediately.”

According to the Taiwan statement, “President Danilo Medina of the Dominican Republic has ignored our long-term partnership, the wishes of the people of the Dominican Republic and the years of developmental assistance provided by Taiwan, to accept false promises of investment and aid by China.”

It continued, “Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Taiwan and the Dominican Republic 77 years ago – in 1941 — successive administrations in our two countries have worked together to forge closer cooperation.

“Successful projects have included efforts to increase rice production… that led to the Dominican Republic’s becoming an exporter of this staple crop.

“Taiwan has worked together with the Dominican Republic to build the Silicon Valley of the Caribbean, the Santo Domingo Cyber Park, among others.

“Taiwan has also provided assistance in establishing an emergency response centre to improve security and increase tourism.

“Recently, Taiwan has also built a new care centre for disadvantaged children.”

“All of these projects have enjoyed the full support and affirmation of the people of the Dominican Republic,” the statement said.

Dollar Diplomacy
The statement said the Taipei administration “strongly condemns China’s objectionable decision to use dollar diplomacy to convert Taiwan’s diplomatic allies.”

It added, “Beijing’s attempts at foreign policy have only served to drive a wedge between the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, erode mutual trust, and further harm the feelings of the people of Taiwan.”

“Furthermore,” it added, “MOFA wants to use this opportunity to remind the international community of the lack of follow-through for China’s promises to former diplomatic allies of Taiwan.”

This, it said, “is exemplified by China’s failure to deliver on a pledge of US$1 billion in assistance to Costa Rica to build a refinery and $400 million to construct highways, when it established relations with the country in 2007.”

“More recently,” it added, “since establishing ties with Sao Tome and Principe in December 2016, it has failed to uphold its pledge to provide US$140 million in aid.

“Agreed-upon plans to build an airport and deepen a harbor have also been shelved.”

Debt Trap
The statement said, “Developing nations should be aware of the danger of falling into a debt trap when engaging with China.”
It concluded, “While Taiwan faces serious diplomatic challenges, the government will not bow down to pressure from Beijing.
“Taiwan will work with friendly nations to uphold regional peace and stability and ensure our rightful place in the international community.
“Our diplomats around the world will continue to fight for Taiwan’s dignity and rights.”

Meanwhile, following the move by Santo Domingo, Taipei continues to be uncertain about the future of its Caribbean ties – and with good reason: Not all its five CARICOM allies publicly supported its quest for membership of the World Health organization (WHO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) at the United Nations General Assembly last year.

And during her first visit to Latin America and the Caribbean last year, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen did not visit the Caribbean territories of St. Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Dominican Republic and Belize.

Further, the major opposition parties in Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines have both formally indicated they have changed their respective stances on China.

In Dominica, where the government and the ruling Dominica Labour Party (DLP) have diplomatic ties with China and political ties with the Communist Party of China (CPC), respectively, the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) has publicly stated it wishes to develop ties with the CPC.

In St, Vincent and the Grenadines, where the government has diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) also says it will recognise the CPC and establish ties with China, should it form the next government.

In the case of Saint Lucia, some Cabinet ministers are said to be advocating a switch from Taiwan to China. But proponents are also said to be deeply uncertain about the possible public backlash from yet another change of diplomatic ties undertaken by Saint Lucia, which has previously effectively severed ties with both Taiwan and China, in 1997 and 2007, respectively.

Saint Lucia is also yet to announce who will be its next Ambassador to Taiwan, following the retirement of Ambassador Herbert Emmanuel earlier this year.

Meanwhile, President Tsai will observe the second anniversary of her 2016 election victory later this month and the Saint Lucia government has been officially invited to participate.

(By VOICE Reporter)

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