China re­sumes ties with Sao Tome in tri­umph over Tai­wan

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

China and Sao Tome and Principe of­fi­cially re­sumed diplo­matic re­la­tions yes­ter­day, in a tri­umph for Beijing over ri­val Tai­wan af­ter the African is­land na­tion abruptly broke away from the self-ruled is­land last week. Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi and his coun­ter­part from Sao Tome, Urbino Botelho, signed books at a cer­e­mony in front of their flags at the Diaoyu­tai State Guest­house in Beijing. Wang said the re-es­tab­lish­ment of re­la­tions would bring ben­e­fits to both coun­tries and that they would hold ex­changes in tourism, the me­dia and other ar­eas.

The move is a vic­tory for Beijing, which con­sid­ers the self-gov­ern­ing is­land of Tai­wan a part of China’s ter­ri­tory and has been out­raged by sug­ges­tions by Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump that he could re­think US pol­icy that ac­cepts this. Beijing and Taipei have com­peted for al­lies for much of the nearly seven decades since the end of China’s civil war in 1949, when the de­feated Na­tion­al­ist gov­ern­ment fled across the Tai­wan Strait. Most of the world does not for­mally rec­og­nize Tai­wan as a con­di­tion of main­tain­ing re­la­tions with China. Sao Tome and Tai­wan broke ties last week, leav­ing 21 coun­tries and gov­ern­ments, mostly in Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean, that have of­fi­cial ties with Tai­wan. Tai­wanese For­eign Min­is­ter David Lee last week ac­cused Sao Tome of de­mand­ing “an as­tro­nom­i­cal amount of financial help,” though he did not say how much.

Sao Tome and Principe is an is­land na­tion off the coast of cen­tral Africa with a pop­u­la­tion of al­most 200,000. The im­pov­er­ished for­mer Por­tuguese colony re­lies heav­ily on for­eign aid. Beijing sus­pended its re­la­tion­ship with Sao Tome in 1997 af­ter the is­land na­tion es­tab­lished diplo­matic ties with Tai­wan.

In re-es­tab­lish­ing re­la­tions with Beijing, Botelho said yes­ter­day, “We want to re­deem our mis­takes in the past.” He said he hoped that more Chi­nese busi­nesses would in­vest in his coun­try and more Chi­nese tourists would visit. As its eco­nomic, mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal clout has grown, China has be­come more suc­cess­ful in pulling away gov­ern­ments in a bid to diplo­mat­i­cally iso­late Tai­wan, though some coun­tries, in­clud­ing the United States, main­tain strong un­of­fi­cial ties with Taipei.

Re­la­tions have wors­ened be­tween Beijing and Taipei since in­de­pen­dence-lean­ing Tai­wanese Pres­i­dent Tsai Ing-wen was elected in Jan­uary. In March, China es­tab­lished for­mal diplo­matic ties with the small African na­tion of Gam­bia, which had sev­ered re­la­tions with Tai­wan in 2013. That was seen as a move to­ward aban­don­ing the un­spo­ken diplo­matic truce be­tween the sides that lasted eight years un­der Tsai’s China-friendly pre­de­ces­sor.

Beijing sus­pended con­tact with the main Tai­wan li­ai­son body in June, blam­ing Tsai’s re­fusal to en­dorse the con­cept of a sin­gle Chi­nese na­tion. While just a few coun­tries and gov­ern­ments still have of­fi­cial ties with Tai­wan, Beijing is eager to play up its lat­est ad­di­tion af­ter Trump sug­gested he might not ad­here to the pol­icy that rec­og­nizes only one China un­less the US gains trade or other ben­e­fits, an­a­lysts say.

Wang Dong, a pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at Pek­ing Univer­sity, said Mon­day’s reestab­lish­ment of diplo­matic ties was a warn­ing to Tai­wan that Beijing has “a lot of coun­ter­mea­sures” up its sleeve should they pur­sue in­de­pen­dence, as well as a warn­ing to the United States. —AP

BEIJING: Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi (right) shakes hands with his Sao Tome coun­ter­part Urbino Botelho af­ter sign­ing an agree­ment in Beijing yes­ter­day. —AFP

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