Taiwan blasts attempts at 'vaccine diplomacy' targeting Paraguay

03/23/2021 10:17 PM
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Alexander Yui, director-general of MOFA
Alexander Yui, director-general of MOFA's Department of Latin American and Caribbean Affairs. CNA file photo

Taipei, March 23 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Tuesday condemned a reported threat by some Chinese businessmen in Paraguay willing to act as vaccine brokers that they would not do so unless the South American country cuts diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

"Access to vaccine is a humanitarian issue in this difficult time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccine should not be used as a tool for political manipulation," Alexander Yui (俞大㵢), director-general of MOFA's Department of Latin American and Caribbean Affairs, said during a regular press briefing.

"We strongly oppose attempts by some parties to use the cutting of Taiwan-Paraguay relations as a precondition for receiving COVID-19 vaccine from China. Such a demand is unreasonable," Yui said.

He was responding to recent media reports in Paraguay that agents claiming to represent China want the Paraguayan government to cut ties with Taiwan if it wants to procure Chinese vaccine.

Paraguay is one of Taiwan's nine diplomatic allies in the Latin American and Caribbean region.

In a statement issued a day earlier, Paraguay's Ministry of External Relations confirmed that some of these agents have suggested that cutting formal ties with Taiwan is a prerequisite for the procurement of Chinese vaccine.

The statement called the request improper and lacking in justification, given that trade between Paraguay and China is normal and smooth, despite the lack of diplomatic ties.

The Paraguayan ministry stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic should not be used by any parties to pursue political or economic gains.

The Paraguayan government is open to trade negotiations on vaccine acquisition with any states or parties, as long as such talks proceed in a serious and responsible manner and the vaccines meet the country's health standards, the statement said.

Meanwhile, Yui said at the same press event that Paraguay has already recently been promised 600,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine from India and Qatar, with those from India expected to arrive on March 28.

The Paraguayan government is also continuing to negotiate with other manufacturers for more vaccine, Yui added.

The official also dismissed claims that Taiwan has pledged some of the COVID-19 vaccine it has ordered from the U.S. to Paraguay, in an effort to keep its ally from switching diplomatic recognition to China.

Beijing, which sees Taiwan as part of its territory, has poached 17 diplomatic allies from Taiwan since 2001, as it piles on the pressure to suppress Taiwan's international space.

Some analysts have expressed concern that Beijing could use "vaccine diplomacy" to further isolate Taiwan, taking advantage of the global pandemic.

(By Emerson Lim and Chen Chun-hua)

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