Taiwan unwilling to engage in checkbook diplomacy: MOFA

12/21/2016 02:36 PM
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Foreign Affairs Minister David Lee announces Wednesday Taiwan
Foreign Affairs Minister David Lee announces Wednesday Taiwan's ending diplomatic relations with São Tomé and Príncipe

Taipei, Dec. 21 (CNA) Although the government has declined to confirm or deny suggestions that the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe demanded an exorbitant price to remain a diplomatic ally of Taiwan, officials have said Taipei will not engage in checkbook diplomacy.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee (李大維) confirmed that Taiwan has severed formal ties with the West African nation.

Asked about the suggestion that São Tomé and Príncipe asked for NT$6.4 billion (US$199.9 million) in financial aid from Taiwan, Lee declined to go into specifics, but he did say that the country "once brought up an astronomical figure."

"To me, the (alleged) figure is astronomical, especially as it only has a population of 150,000 people," said Lee.

"Based on the principle of pragmatic diplomacy, Taiwan is unwilling to play money games, instead it has offered assistance through programs that aim to improve the lives of the people of São Tomé and Príncipe," he added.

The minister reiterated that the financial woes faced by São Tomé and Príncipe were not the responsibility of Taiwan.

An unnamed official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said the African nation sought US$210 million in financial support.

Asked if the diplomatic setback could impact Taiwan's other allies, including the Vatican, the nation's only diplomatic ally in Europe, Lee said the Holy See is very different to São Tomé and Príncipe.

"The Vatican has no demands for financial aid. The situation is completely different," Lee said. However, he admitted that given Taipei's small number of diplomatic allies Taiwan's diplomatic missions around the world are under constant pressure.

Taiwan ended its 19-year diplomatic relationship with São Tomé and Príncipe on Wednesday immediately following an announcement from the West African nation that it had severed ties with Taiwan.

"We deeply regret Sao Tome and Principe's decision to terminate diplomatic ties with our country on Dec. 21."

"To uphold our nation's dignity, we have decided to end diplomat ties with Sao Tome and Principe, withdraw our embassy and technical personnel and end all bilateral cooperation effective immediately," Lee said at the press conference.

He attributed the decision to Taiwan being unable to provide the debt-ridden island-nation in the Gulf of Guinea with the money it asked for, prompting the country to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China.

The São Tomé and Príncipe embassy in Taipei has so far declined media requests for a statement on today's developments

Taiwan established formal links with Portuguese-speaking São Tomé and Príncipe in May 1997.

Following the decision, Taiwan now has 21 diplomatic allies. In Africa, only Burkina Faso and Swaziland maintain formal ties with Taiwan.

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