Sat, Nov 20, 2004 - Page 1 News List

MOFA officials deny Vanuatu flip-flop reports

MIXED MESSAGES Despite international news reports that Vanuatu was reneging on its promise to establish ties with Taiwan, MOFA officials stayed calm


The nation's newly forged ties with Vanuatu remained mired in confusion yesterday, with Taiwanese officials insisting that relations have not been altered despite reports of a Cabinet statement from the South Pacific nation saying ties with Taiwan would be revoked.

"Our officials in Vanuatu spoke with the Prime Minister [Serge Vohor] this morning [Friday]. Vohor had assured them that nothing had changed and that they needed some time," Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said yesterday.

According to Lu, discussion of Vanuatu's ties with both Taiwan and China will come up again on Monday during a parliamentary session in Port Vila.

The Associated Press (AP) reported yesterday that Vohor had caved in to pressure from his Cabinet to abandon a deal granting diplomatic recognition to Taiwan. The report said "`Vohor's Council of Minsters had voted to `unilaterally and unequivocally revoke all agreements and undertakings ... made on behalf of Vanuatu,' a Cabinet statement said" late Thursday.

"Logically, it makes no sense to say the Cabinet agreed to a resolution on the matter, as there is still disagreement in the Cabinet," Lu said, saying that China had been spreading rumors about the Cabinet's decision to back the "one China" principle.

Lu also said that the ministry was on top of the debacle in the tiny South Pacific nation, saying that they had spoken with Vanuatuan government spokesman Kalvau Moli who had denied reports that ties with Taiwan would be dissolved.

"Our flag is still flying high in Vanuatu," Lu said.

The AP reported that Moli had said that the premier "will go by the decision ... the verdict of the Council of Ministers" and break his agreement to recognize Taiwan.

The report further said that Vanuatu's ministers said they "will request the Peoples' Republic of China to consider providing budgetary assistance" to Vanuatu.

"In a letter to the Chinese government dated Nov. 6, and published Friday in a local newspaper, Vohor said that `Taiwan has recently indicated its commitment to provide US$20 million budgetary support annually for five years to the Vanuatu government,'" the report said.

"It's their culture. They are Melanesian and would rather avoid confrontation. They prefer to sit down and discuss the matter," Lu said, saying some more time would be needed to resolve the controversy.

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