Thu, Dec 16, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Vanuatu switches allegiance back to China

DOLLAR DIPLOMACYChina released US$2 million to Vanuatu after its announcement that it had severed ties with Taipei, while developments in Haiti are worrying diplomats

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AFP

Vanuatu's newly installed Prime Minister Ham Lini yesterday said his government no longer has official relations with Taiwan.

Taiwan's diplomats left the country on Tuesday night.

In a letter dated Dec. 13 to Chinese ambassador Bao Shusheng (鮑樹生) in Port Vila, Lini said the decision of his predecessor, Serge Vohor, to establish diplomatic ties with Taiwan had gone close to fracturing the relations which Vanuatu had long enjoyed with Beijing.

"I would like to apologize to you and the government of the People's Republic of China on behalf of the Vanuatu government and the people of Vanuatu for the events in the past two weeks that nearly destroyed the friendly relations our two countries have enjoyed for over 20 years," Lini said.

Following receipt of the letter, China immediately released US$2 million to the Vanuatu government for education that had been suspended during Vohor's term as prime minister.

In his letter, Lini confirmed Vanuatu had revoked ties with Taiwan and would adhere to the "one China" policy.

"The current government under my leadership adheres to and respects the `one China' policy," he said.

"The government of Vanuatu has revoked all agreements signed by Mr. Serge Vohor with Taiwan on 3rd November and will commit itself not to have any official relationship with Taiwan in the future," Lini added.

In a statement to the media, Lini said that following the formation of the new government in the early hours of Saturday morning, an urgent Council of Ministers meeting was held on Sunday in which the decision was formally made on the matter.

"We look forward to rebuilding and strengthening the historical friendly relations and cooperation between both countries in the interests of peace and both countries' mutual benefits at regional and international level," he said.

Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) confirmed that Taiwan's diplomats left Vanuatu for Fiji on Tuesday night, but insisted ties between the two countries still exist.

"In practice, Vanuatu's foreign ministry has to give us a diplomatic note to inform us of the abolition of official relations. We haven't received the note yet. Before that, the ties remain valid," Lu said.

The ministry will not give up relations with Vanuatu, Lu said, noting many members of parliament supported Vohor's decision to establish diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

"It is still possible that our dip-lomats will return to Vanuatu. Their departure does not mean the end of our communication with Vohor and other Taiwan-friendly officials in Vanuatu. We are keeping in touch with members of the new government and the foreign ministry," Lu said.

Lu added that prior to the Taiwanese diplomats' departure, China's embassy in Vanuatu notified all of the countries' airlines, demanding that they prevent all Taiwanese nationals from leaving the country.

"Fortunately, our diplomats there obtained information about China's maneuver in advance and managed to leave in time," Lu said, when asked to explain why the ministry decided to instruct the diplomats to fly to Fiji.

With the country's brief official relationship with Vanuatu drawing to an end, the ministry is now keeping a close eye on developments in Haiti.

China's ambassador to the UN, Wang Guangya (王光亞), arrived in Haiti on Tuesday to visit Chinese peacekeepers in the country, which has been an ally of Taiwan for nearly 50 years.

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