Fri, May 05, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Solomons envoys say Taiwan ties will remain intact

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

Immediately after being elected as the new head of state yesterday, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare sent two members of his Cabinet to reassure Taiwan's top envoy to the South Pacific island that diplomatic ties would not be severed.

"An hour after Sogavare was sworn in as the new prime minister, two members of his new Cabinet came to see me. They wanted to reassure me that the new government would keep the nation's promise to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan," Ambassador Antonio Chen (陳俊賢) told the Taipei Times in a telephone interview yesterday.

Chen said the message was conveyed to him by Francis Zama and Trevor Olave at 3pm yesterday.

"I think it's a very friendly gesture [from the Solomon Islands government] to assure Taiwan that it will continue to maintain diplomatic relations with us," Chen said.

The ambassador said Sogavare's current priority was to appoint members of his Cabinet, which is to be finalized tomorrow.

Sogavare was previously reported to be considering severing ties with Taiwan if he was elected prime minister.

Sogavare was elected early yesterday following riots that erupted over graft allegations in the appointment of his predecessor, Snyder Rini.

Rini was accused of accepting money from prominent local ethnic Chinese businessmen and from Taiwan to bribe members of parliament for their support. News of the allegations caused an uproar in the capital of Honiara, with supporters of the opposition party looting and rampaging against the local ethnic Chinese community.

Despite the reassurances from Sogavare, Solomon Islands ambassador to Taiwan Beraki Jino yesterday described relations between his country and Taiwan as "murky." So far, he had not received any information from his government about the latest policy position towards Taiwan, he said.

"[Sogavare's] priority now is to name his Cabinet ... on the issue of Solomon Islands and Taiwan relations, he hasn't made any statement. When he was asked by the media today [about the issue of Taiwan], he tried [to avoid] the issue," Jino said.

Jino indicated that his government would only begin to reformulate its foreign policy picture once the new Cabinet got to work on Monday.

"We'll wait and see what will actually transpire during the weekend. I am also expecting some information from my ministry of foreign affairs," Jino said.

Taiwan and China have both been accused of using chequebook diplomacy to win recognition in the Solomons and elsewhere.

On another diplomatic battle front in Africa, Chadian President Idris Derby, whose government has faced prolonged civil unrest, is expected to remain in office as the country yesterday concluded its presidential election.

Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' African Affairs Department Lee Chen-hsiung (李辰雄) said that Derby's government had been troubled by rebels linked to the Darfur conflict and that recent evidence showed that the weapons used by the rebels came from China.

Lee said that Derby suspected that China might be working to subvert his government.

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