Sun, Oct 08, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan replaces ambassador to Tuvalu

NORMAL The new representative, Daniel Liao, denied that the sudden change was in response to concerns that the country's ties with the South Pacific state were at risk

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Daniel Liao (廖東周) yesterday confirmed that he had been designated as the new ambassador to Tuvalu, adding that relations between Taiwan and its South Pacific ally were normal.

According to a report by the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister newspaper) yesterday, relations with Tuvalu were "in jeopardy" and that the ministry abruptly replaced its ambassador in a bid to thwart China's attempt to undermine Taiwan diplomatically ahead of the country's Oct. 10 National Day celebrations.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) yesterday confirmed that Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳) on Tuesday had approved the appointment of Liao to replace Feng Tai (酆邰) as ambassador to Tuvalu.

Liao told Taipei Times yesterday he did not think that the appointment was unexpected and denied that the country's relations with Tuvalu was under peril, prompting the ministry's decision to replace Feng.

"I will focus on developing our friendly relations with the local people and government officials in Tuvalu," Liao said yesterday. "I think I will do a good job."

"Our diplomatic ties with Tuvalu are stable so far. There's no problem with them," he added.

Taiwan and Tuvalu will continue cooperating on promoting fishery, agriculture and medical services, according to Liao.

Liao will fly to Tuvalu on Oct. 15 and then come back to Taiwan for a swearing-in ceremony.

A high-ranking foreign ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that it was Tuvalu which had asked that Feng be replaced, telling the Taiwanese government to dispatch a "more competent" diplomat.

Lu yesterday said it was normal for diplomats to be transferred from one country to another, and Feng had accomplished his mission during the summit attended by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) with the nation's six Pacific allies in Palau early last month.

However, Lu added, that Taiwan would be on guard against China's relentless efforts to lure away its allies.

"China has never stopped its attempts to undermine Taiwan's international space and take away our allies," Lu said.

On the eve of Chen's departure to the country's South Pacific allies earlier this year,the Liberty Times had at the time reported that one of these allies, due to China's meddling, might break off its diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

The MOFA at the time negated the report.

Liao, 51, is currently the deputy director-general of the ministry's department of international organization. He is also in charge of the country's bid to join the UN.

Liao had previously served as the director of the Culture Center of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles, representative in Belize, charge d'affaires of the embassy to the Dominican Republic and coordinator of the WHO's Special Task Force.

Taipei established formal diplomatic ties with Tuvalu in 1979 and set up an embassy there in 1998. However, an ambassador was not assigned to the post until April 2004 when Feng was appointed as the country's representative. Feng is currently on vacation in Taiwan.

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