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Ties with Paraguay stable despite U.S. senator's warning: MOFA (update)

2018/05/16 19:02:27

CNA file photo

Taipei, May 16 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Wednesday reaffirmed that Taiwan's ties with Paraguay, its only South American ally, remain stable despite a warning raised by a U.S. senator that Paraguay could be next to shift allegiance to Beijing.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio raised the concern to Alex Wong (黃之瀚), a deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. State Department's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, at a Senate hearing Tuesday.

During the hearing, Rubio said China has been trying to influence votes in international forums and gain leverage in the Western Hemisphere, pointing to Panama and the Dominican Republic's cutting of ties with Taiwan and recognition of China.

"And now I'm hearing that perhaps Paraguay might be next," he said.

He asked Wong if the U.S. has expressed concern to its allies in the Caribbean region and to China over Beijing's aggressive moves.

In response, Wong, who visited Taiwan this March, said that any attempts to close off the international space of Taiwan and to alter the status quo across the Taiwan Strait are "disturbing" to the U.S.

"In our one-China policy, we seek to strengthen ties with Taiwan, we seek to provide them proper defensive capabilities to defend their democracy, but we also want to maintain the status quo because it's the key to stability across the strait," Wong said.

"Any moves to strip Taiwan of its diplomatic partners disturbs that status quo, and it's something we made clear to our partners and we made to Beijing as well," he said.

Asked to comment on Taiwan's ties with Paraguay amid Rubio's concern, MOFA spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) told reporters in Taipei that the ministry thanks friends in the United States for their concern over Beijing's ongoing poaching of Taiwan's diplomatic allies.

But he said the nation's ties with Paraguay remain stable and bilateral cooperation is going smoothly.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's Vice Foreign Minister Jose Maria Liu (劉德立) said Wednesday that he visited Paraguay from May 5-9 where he congratulated Paraguayan President-elect Mario Abdo Benitez on his election and expressed the hope that Taiwan and the new Parguayan government will continue their good bilateral relations.

While in the country, Liu hosted a banquet for Abdo at the official residence of the Republic of China (Taiwan) Ambassador to Paraguay, Diego Chou (周麟).

In return, the incumbent President of Paraguay Horacio Cartes hosted a luncheon for Liu, Chou and Abdo in a move to improve ties between the two countries, according to Liu.

Both Cartes and Abdo have expressed an interest in enhancing bilateral cooperation and investment between the two countries, Liu said.

In addition, Abdo extended an invitation to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to attend his inaugural ceremony in August, according to Liu.

(By Joseph Yeh, Elain Hou and Evelyn Kao)