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Guatemala's China trade hopes won't jeopardize Taiwan ties: MOFA

02/06/2024 09:41 PM
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Taipei, Feb. 6 (CNA) The new Guatemalan government's desire to develop trade ties with China does not conflict with the country's policy of maintaining diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Tuesday.

In a statement, MOFA said that comments made by Guatemalan Foreign Minister Carlos Ramiro Martinez in an interview with Reuters regarding trade ties with Beijing did not come as a surprise.

The government of President Bernardo Arévalo has consistently maintained a policy of preserving Guatemala's diplomatic relations with Taiwan while also developing trade with China, MOFA said.

MOFA noted that President Arévalo had recently reaffirmed his government's desire to maintain its diplomatic recognition with Taipei when the allied leader met with Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) at his inauguration ceremony on Jan. 14.

MOFA added that Taiwan would continue to enhance closer cooperation and exchanges with Guatemala under the leadership of President Arévalo and his new administration to further cement bilateral relations.

In an interview with Reuters published Monday, Martinez said that while Guatemala would "continue working with Taiwan at the levels we have been doing," President Arévalo "has pointed out that we cannot ignore the weight and power China represents."

"We are interested in approaching them to try and develop some relationship around trade," Martinez said, adding that this could materialize as an "office of trade interests" that would help find a Chinese market for Guatemalan products.

"We are making it public - this is not an ambush against Taiwan or the United States," he said.

According to MOFA, Martinez's latest remarks are consistent with President Bernardo Arévalo's long-held stance.

During an interview with Reuters following his election victory last August, Arévalo said he has no intention to alter the status of his country's diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (ROC), Taiwan's official name, but that he also wants to improve relations with China.

Arévalo told Reuters it was "perfectly feasible to have good relations with both the People's Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan."

"Guatemala's private sector is interested in expanding relations with China, which counts the Central American country as its main trade partner in the region," Arévalo said at the time.

It remains to be seen how Arévalo's new government will manage to navigate relations with both after assuming office, given the fact that the PRC sees Taiwan as part of its territory and has made it a precondition for a foreign country to cut diplomatic relations with Taipei before it can have closer ties with Beijing.

Central America was once Taiwan's staunchest base of diplomatic support, with all seven countries still recognizing ROC as of 2006.

However, Costa Rica severed ties in 2007, followed by Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras in 2017, 2018, 2021, and 2023, respectively.

Following Nauru's decision to cut ties with ROC this January, Taiwan now only has 12 diplomatic allies worldwide. Guatemala and Belize are the only countries in Central America to maintain diplomatic relations with Taipei.

(By Joseph Yeh)

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