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Taiwan denies heading back to checkbook diplomacy days

2018/05/23 12:36:03

Foreign Minister Joseph Wu

Taipei, May 23 (CNA) Strategic loans to Taiwan's diplomatic allies are designed to create "win-win-win situations" and do not represent a return to checkbook diplomacy to compete with China for those allies' allegiance, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said Wednesday.

Taiwan has already pledged assistance to the Solomon Islands to help it prepare to host the 2023 Pacific Games after Solomon Islands Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela met with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Monday and asked Tsai for financial assistance.

Taiwan also reportedly agreed to grant Haiti a low-interest US$150 million loan to help it build rural power grids, according to a Miami Herald report last week. Taiwan's government has not officially confirmed the deal so far.

At a legislative hearing Wednesday, opposition lawmakers cited local media reports that the Solomon Islands was asking for NT$900 million in financial assistance and the report on Haiti and asked Wu if Taiwan was moving back to the "checkbook diplomacy" of the past.

Wu said Taiwan was not, and that Taipei was no match for Beijing and had no intention to compete with it in offering astronomical sums to lure allies.

"We are not competing with China over allies with financial aid. We are genuinely offering help to them," he said.

Wu said that offering loans can create "win-win-win situations" for Taiwanese businesses and allied nations and their people, but he did not provide any concrete examples.

When pressed specifically on the Solomon Islands issue, Wu would not confirm the sum cited in the reports or if Taiwan was going to provide its Pacific ally with financial aid.

The foreign minister said only that the government "will help the Solomon Islands secure a loan to support the project" and that the details are being discussed.

The government, he said, is offering assistance in other ways, including by arranging to have Taiwanese companies specialized in construction and the design of sports arenas provide briefings to representatives from the Pacific ally.

These sports venues, once completed, will be used not only during the 2023 multi-sports competition but will also serve as training facilities for the Solomon Islands' athletes, Wu said.

Checkbook diplomacy describes past efforts by Taiwan and China to vie for allies by throwing substantial amounts of financial aid in their direction.

The competition underwent a truce of sorts from 2008 to 2016 under the previous Kuomintang administration, but China has poached three of Taiwan's allies with the help of financial incentives since the current Democratic Progressive Party administration took power in May 2016.

The three allies to shift allegiance to Beijing during that time were Sao Tome and Principe, in December 2016, Panama, in June 2017, and the Dominican Republic, at the beginning of this month.



(By Joseph Yeh)
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