Gam­bia is to cut its ties with Tai­wan

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - BUSINESS - PAP SAINE and MICHAEL GOLD

BAN­JUL/TAIPEI: Gam­bia will cut diplo­matic ties with Tai­wan, Pres­i­dent Yahya Jam­meh’s of­fice said, a move which could threaten warm­ing ties be­tween China and Tai­wan.

Gam­bia was one of a few African coun­tries, along with Burk­ina Faso and Swazi­land, to recog­nise self-ruled Tai­wan.

“This de­ci­sion has been taken in our strate­gic na­tional in­ter­est,” the pres­i­dent’s of­fice said on Thurs­day.

“We are proud that we have been a very strong and re­li­able part­ner of the ROC (Repub­lic of China, or Tai­wan) for the past 18 years, the re­sults of which are there for ev­ery Tai­wanese to see.”

It said Gam­bia and Tai­wan would re­main friends, but Taipei ex­pressed shock at the an­nounce­ment.

Wang Chien- yeh, head of the for­eign min­istry’s Depart­ment of West Asian and African Af­fairs, said Tai­wan had of­fi­cially “sus­pended” its re­la­tions with Gam­bia, not ter­mi­nated them.

China’s For­eign Min­istry said it had had no con­tact with au­thor­i­ties in Gam­bia and de­clined to say if it had now es­tab­lished for­mal ties.

“We … learned about this from the for­eign me­dia. China has had no con­tact with Gam­bia ahead of this,” spokesman Hong Lei said.

China says Tai­wan has no right to diplo­matic recog­ni­tion as it is part of China. The two have been gov­erned sep­a­rately since the Com­mu­nists won China’s civil war in 1949. The Na­tion­al­ists fled to Tai­wan.

Other coun­tries en­joy­ing diplo­matic ties with Tai­wan in­clude the tiny Pa­cific is­land states of Nauru and Palau, as well as Vat­i­can City, Paraguay, Panama, Haiti, Nicaragua and Belize.

“The rest of Tai­wan’s diplo­matic al­lies will be watch­ing,” said Cheng-Yi Lin, a re­search fel­low at Tai­wan’s Academia Sinica.

The two sides have en­gaged in an un­of­fi­cial diplo­matic truce since sign­ing a se­ries of land­mark trade and eco­nomic agree­ments in 2008, as China tries to con­vince Tai­wan of its friendly in­ten­tions af­ter decades of hos­til­ity and sus­pi­cion.

Zhang Zhexin, who stud­ies Tai­wan pol­icy at the Shang­hai In­sti­tute for In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, said Bei­jing would deal with the is­sue in a low-key way to avoid up­set­ting Tai­wan.

“We won’t take the ini­tia­tive to spread this news around,” he said. “This has noth­ing to do with cross-strait ties. Gam­bia has its own de­vel­op­ment needs.”

Gam­bia is the sec­ond African state to an­nounce a change in its diplo­matic re­la­tion­ship with China this week.

Of­fi­cials in the tiny is­land na­tion of Sao Tome and Principe said on Tues­day that China planned to open a trade mis­sion to pro­mote projects there.

That de­ci­sion comes 16 years af­ter China sev­ered re­la­tions over the cen­tral African na­tion’s recog­ni­tion of Tai­wan.

Sao Tome of­fi­cials did not say whether the new co-op­er­a­tion deal with Bei­jing would af­fect diplo­matic ties with Tai­wan. – Reuters

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