Sun, Nov 14, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Are Vanuatu ties for real?Who knows?

ANYBODY'S GUESS Is the Pacific island an ally or not? China and Cabinet members say no, but the prime minister says he will appoint an ambassador


Despite disagreements in Vanuatu regarding that country's diplomatic ties with Taiwan, Vanuatu Prime Minister Serge Vohor plans to appoint an ambassador to Taiwan by the end of next week, government spokesman Kalvao Moli said yesterday.

"The prime minister has indicated informally that [the appointment] will be done sometime next week," Moli told the Taipei Times yesterday over the telephone. Taipei has made similar statements regarding the appointment of an ambassador.

Vohor had been slated to make a televised appearance to address disagreement over ties with Taipei, but Moli said yesterday that the appearance had been delayed because the prime minister had yet to return from the island of Santo.

Vohor plans to address the issue today in a "formal declaration" of the country's continued commitment to ties with Taipei, the spokesman said.

"We are still committed to Taipei and the agreement with Taiwan," Moli said.

According to Moli, the Council of Ministers, the nation's Cabinet, has withdrawn its previous objections and now stands in support of the prime minister's decision to establish ties with Taiwan.

The Vanuatu Daily Post reported on Thursday that the Cabinet had unanimously decided to veto Vohor's decision and had threatened a vote of no confidence. Minister of Foreign Affairs Barak Sope was quoted in the report saying that in light of the veto, Vohor had two options: agree with the Cabinet or sack them all.

However, Moli yesterday said media reports had been "outrageous."

"We understand that several ministers have reservations, but after consultations they have come to agree that the prime minister's position is clear," Moli said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs could not be reached for comment yesterday.

"As we often say here, the `one China' policy will not take you to heaven," Moli said. He said financial assistance from Taipei of about 3.3 billion Vanuatu vatu (US$30.2 million) per year, in addition to agricultural and fishery programs and scholarships, were currently on the negotiating table, but that the figures were not definitive. Moli said that the lion's share of any financial assistance from Taiwan would be spent improving the nation's rural areas.

Despite Beijing's remarks that Vanuatu would adhere to the "one China" principle and revoke ties with Taipei, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has held to the validity of the Nov. 4 communique which established diplomatic ties between Vanuatu and Taiwan.

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