Wed, Dec 15, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Vanuatu, Grenada ties hanging in the balance

CLARIFICATION SOUGHT The two countries are reportedly planning to give up their ties with Taiwan after being offered sizeable aid packages by China

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan is facing more diplomatic tension as two of its allies, Vanuatu and Grenada, reportedly plan to abandon relations with Taiwan in exchange for large sums of aid from China.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said last night it is seeking the Vanuatuan government's clarification after Beijing announced that Vanuatu's newly-formed Cabinet has abolished a diplomatic communique its former leader signed with Taiwan.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao (劉建超) said in a press conference yesterday that Vanuatu's new Prime Minister Ham Lini wrote a letter to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) on Monday confirming that the communique his predecessor Serge Vohor signed with Taiwan is no longer valid.

Liu added the Wen and Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇) have sent congratulations to Lini, who was elected as Vanuatu's new leader last Saturday.

"So far we haven't received formal notice from the Vanuatuan government. We cannot count on what China said. We are still trying to seek clarification of the Vanuatuan government, MOFA spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said.

Lu said earlier yesterday that, since Vanuatu's parliament ousted former prime minister Serge Vohor with a vote of no confidence last week, the MOFA has been lobbying the new government to retain diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

Lu criticized Australia and New Zealand for pressuring Vanuatu to abide by the "one China" policy as Taiwanese diplomats in Port Vila struggle to earn the new government's recognition of Taipei.

One of New Zealand's senior officials in Vanuatu urged the country to rethink and readjust its relations with big nations, including New Zealand, Australia and China and demanded that Vanuatu reopen negotiation mechanism with these states.

Lu said New Zealand and Australia's behavior upset the ministry. "They made us really uncomfortable ... This is intervention into Vanuatu's domestic affairs," he said.

"China promised to give Vanuatu US$32 million of financial aid if it cut ties with Taiwan. We will not play this dollar diplomacy game with China," Lu said.

Vohor, who was forced to step down partly as a result of his decision to establish ties with Taiwan, may have an opportunity to regain power if he can muster support of 27 members of parliament for a no-confidence vote against the new Cabinet, Lu said.

Meanwhile, the ministry said it would not grant unreasonable aid requests made by Grenada's Prime Minister Keith Mitchell, who is now visiting Beijing.

"Mr Mitchell left Grenada for Beijing last Friday. Over the past year, he has kept close communication with Beijing. He wants to use cross-strait conflicts as an opportunity to obtain more financial aid from Taiwan and China," Lu said.

"He will not gain any illegal benefits from us. We will not increase the amount of our aid. It remains to be seen whether China will grant his aid requests," Lu said, adding that Beijing promised to offer Mitchell more aid.

Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂) said on Saturday that Mitchell would talk about establishing diplomatic relations with China in Beijing.

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