Haiti's need for UN peacekeepers to remain for an extended mandate suddenly took on new complexity this week, when the impoverished nation found itself entangled in the diplomatic standoff between China and Taiwan.
The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) with its 6,000 peacekeepers, including Chinese forces, costs US$500 million per year with its mandate due to expire on June 1.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the interim government of Haiti -- which has a long-standing relationship with Taiwan as opposed to China -- have called for the mandate to be extended by one year from that date.
But, say Western diplomats and Haitian officials, China is insistent that MINUSTAH's mandate be renewed for six months only, making the atmosphere at the UN Security Council, where Beijing has veto power, quite uncomfortable.
The reason for China's opposition? A visit to Taiwan -- which China views as its own renegade province -- by interim Haitian President Alexandre Boniface scheduled for July.
For the UN, curtailing the peacekeepers' mission in Haiti is out of the question.
The first elections since Aristide left office amid an uprising in February last year are to be held in Haiti later this year, beginning with a municipal vote on Oct. 9 to be followed by legislative and presidential elections to be held in two rounds on Nov. 13 and Dec. 18.
The country has had heightened incidents of violence in recent months.
A compromise, however, has been proposed that would see the peacekeepers' mandate extended for nine months instead. This weekend, China's partners at the Security Council were still waiting for its response.
While Taiwan has had close ties with Haiti for more than 40 years, the People's Republic of China does not have diplomatic relations with Haiti, and Beijing has only had a token trade office in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince for two years.
For China, though, it is unacceptable that the Haitian president would visit Taiwan, which it considers as part of its territory.
To undermine tension, Haitian interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue promised to make an official visit to Beijing in the autumn, but, according to a Haitian source, refuses to have the president's trip to Taiwan cancelled.
"It is out of the question to have China dictate the decisions," the source said.
VIGILANCE: While two of the cases are family members of a nurse, there is no sign of community spread and the source of infection is identifiable, the CECC said The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported four new domestic COVID-19 cases associated with a cluster infection at a Taoyuan hospital. Since the first case was identified on Tuesday last week, five healthcare workers — two doctors and three nurses — at the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Taoyuan General Hospital have tested positive for the virus. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that two of the four new cases are the husband and daughter of a nurse (case No. 863) who had earlier been confirmed to have COVID-19. The husband (case No. 864)
INCURSION: After 13 PLA aircraft flew into Taiwan’s ADIZ, the US Department of State said that China should rather ‘engage in meaningful dialogue’ with Taiwan US President Joe Biden’s administration on Saturday urged China to stop placing military pressure on Taiwan, while calling on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to engage in peaceful dialogue. The statement by the US Department of State was issued after 13 Chinese military aircraft flew into Taiwan’s southwest air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Saturday, the highest number observed in a single day this year, the Ministry of National Defense said. The air force scrambled fighter jets to monitor the Chinese aircraft, issuing radio warnings and mobilizing air defense assets until the planes left the ADIZ. The US “notes
CHANGE OF GUARD: Hsiao Bi-khim’s attendance at Joe Biden’s inauguration will come as a boost to those in Taiwan who feared that the new US administration would be less friendly than that of Donald Trump to the nation Representative to the US Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) is to attend US President Joe Biden’s swearing-in ceremony at the US Capitol after she was invited by the US Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, a news release issued by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in the US said last night. The news came as a surprise as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been reticent about the matter, while Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) members had accused the Democratic Progressive Party administration of hedging its bets on the Republican Party. Asked about when Hsiao received the invitation, the ministry did not
FAMILY UNIT: The CECC warned that the eldest sister of the latest case, who also has COVID-19, visited Taoyuan’s Chungping evening market on Tuesday and Wednesday The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported a domestic case of COVID-19, associated with a recent cluster infection at Taoyuan General Hospital, and two imported cases. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that the latest case (No. 885) is a woman in her 50s, who is the third daughter of case No. 881, a man in his 90s. The woman is the main caregiver of her elderly father, who had been hospitalized earlier this month and was treated by a nurse (case No. 852) from Monday to Thursday last week, he said, adding that