Tue, Nov 16, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Vanuatu's Cabinet backs Taiwan ties

DIPLOMATIC DECISION The ministers of the tiny South Pacific nation agreed to back their prime minister's move

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AP

Twelve days after signing a communique to establish diplomatic ties with Vanuatu, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs appears to have secured the country's newest ally after Vanuatu's Cabinet agreed to diplomatic recognition yesterday.

The Cabinet made the unanimous decision at an informal meeting, Prime Minister Serge Vohor's spokesman Kalvau Moli said.

The announcement rejected claims by China's Foreign Ministry last Thursday that Vanuatu had decided to withdraw its recognition of Taipei in favor of Beijing.

"The foreign ministry welcomes the decision. The move reaffirms the establishment of diplomatic ties between Taiwan and Vanuatu,ministry spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said.

Three Taiwanese diplomats in Vanuatu have been in discussions with Vohor regarding the opening of an embassy. Both countries will appoint ambassadors soon, ministry officials said.

China's newly appointed ambassador to Vanuatu Bao Shusheng (鮑樹生), who accompanied Vohor during his trip to Beijing in September, protested about the diplomatic flip-flop when he presented credentials to the prime minister on Nov. 7.

Bao vowed that Beijing would cancel its US$10 million aid package to Vanuatu if it gave up official ties with China, according to the Vanuatu Daily Post.

The newspaper reported Vanuatu's Foreign Affairs Department has written letters to the Chinese embassy every day since Vohor signed a communique on official ties with Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) on Nov. 3.

Vohor did not inform his Cabinet in advance of his decision to establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Bao, in an interview with the Daily Post, said China was enraged by Vohor's behavior.

Beijing had made no official response to the Vanuatu Cabinet's decision as of press time last night.

"We understand there will be a reaction and we are prepared for that," Moli said.

Asked whether Taiwan had bought Vanuatu's recognition with aid money, Moli said: "They haven't paid a thing yet."

"We welcome China to remain in Vanuatu," Moli said, adding that "if they feel they have to go it will be of their own will ... we won't be sending them out."

Some of Vanuatu's ministers expressed concern over how their decision would affect relations with China, but ultimately agreed to support "the cherished relationship we have with Taipei," he said.

Moli said Vanuatu was a sovereign and democratic country "with a right to choose, a right to increase the frame of relationship with any other country and we do not feel we must be bound by one policy."

"We would rather have a `one China' and a `one Taiwan' policy, to complement each other," he said.

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