Tue, Nov 30, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Canberra told not to meddle: MOFA

DIPLOMATIC TUSSLE The foreign ministry has urged Australia not to be influenced by China and try to exert pressure on Vanuatu over that nation's ties with Taipei

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) yesterday urged Australia not to meddle in the ties between Taiwan and Vanuatu.

"We would like to appeal to the Australian government not to be influenced by China and interfere in Vanuatu's domestic affairs at this time, especially as [Vanuatuan] Prime Minister Serge Vohor is encountering difficulties within the Vanuatuan Cabinet," said Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍), quoting remarks made by Chen.

Since Chen and Vohor signed a diplomatic communique between Taiwan and Vanuatu on Nov. 3 during Vohor's visit to Taipei, China has done everything it could to sabotage the ties, Lu said.

Noting that a wire agency report last Friday said that Canberra had threatened to suspend billions of dollars of aid to Vanuatu unless the South Pacific nation improved its governance and accepted the presence of Australian police and advisers, Lu said "it is hard for one not to believe that there is no association between the move made by Australia and influence from China" to assert pressure on Vanuatu to rescind its recognition of Taiwan.

Lu said Australia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week had sent two representatives to Vanuatu on a mission to convey the Australian government's message.

"During this trip, they urged the island nation to improve governance and to maintain the `one China' policy," Lu said.

Chen summoned Australia's trade representative, Francis Adam-son, last Friday to convey "Taiwan's stern stand" that Canberra should not meddle in ties between Taiwan and Vanuatu.

China has tried to create conflicts within Vanuatu's Cabinet and encourage a no-confidence vote on Vohor, Lu said. He said Beijing has also sent teams, including its former ambassador to Vanuatu, to Port Vila in a bid to sabotage the newly-established diplomatic ties with Taiwan, Lu said.

Beijing had also tried to entice Vanuatu with a proposal to increase its financial aid to Port Vila by US$32 million a year, Lu said.

"Taiwan has no desire nor ability to play the numbers game with China," Lu said, adding that Taipei's establishment of ties with Port Vila was based on Taiwan's genuineness and its sincerity to carry out cooperation projects with Vanuatu.

Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂) is in Vanuatu and keeping a close eye on events there, Lu said, including a meeting scheduled for Thursday when the question of a no-confidence vote in Vohor is to be discussed.

The ministry and diplomats in Vanuatu "will do our best to safeguard our national interests and dignity," Lu quoted Chen as saying.

Lu noted that an embassy has already been opened in Port Vila.

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