Fri, Jun 08, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan blasts Costa Rica over switch

`BETRAYAL' MOFA announced it was cutting ties with its Central American ally after 63 years following President Oscar Arias' decision to establish relations with China

By Jewel Huang, Shih Hsiu-chuan and Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Taiwan yesterday severed diplomatic ties with Costa Rica, with whom it had maintained ties since 1944, after the Central American nation switched its allegiance to China.

Costa Rica's change of heart leaves Taiwan with 24 diplomatic allies.

"In order to protect Taiwan's dignity and interests, the Taiwanese government has decided to end diplomatic ties with Costa Rica," Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang said (黃志芳) at a morning news conference.

"All bilateral projects between Taiwan and Costa Rica will be terminated immediately," he said.

Huang said he had offered his resignation to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) to assume responsibility for the diplomatic setback.

Chen did not accept Huang's resignation, however, saying that it was not Huang's fault and that he had tried his best to protect the ties.

"It is not a very satisfactory outcome," Chen said in a statement issued by the Presidential Office yesterday.

"But I hope the public will continue to support and encourage the ministry, which has done its best," he said.

Huang told the conference that Costa Rica had been lying to Taiwan about its interactions with China by claiming Taiwan-Costa Rica ties remained firm.

"Since he became president in May 2006, President Oscar Arias has engaged in several rounds of secretive talks concerned with building formal ties with the PRC [People's Republic of China], disregarding the shared values and long friendship between our two countries," Huang said.

Huang said it was ironic that Arias, a winner of the Noble Peace Prize in 1987 for his efforts to end the civil war, would turn to totalitarian China, which resorted to money and threats to lure Costa Rica.

After informing Taiwanese Ambassador to Costa Rica Wu Tzu-dan (吳子丹) of the split on Wednesday afternoon, Arias held a press conference to announce Costa Rica's decision, Huang said.

Costa Rican Foreign Minister Bruno Stango and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) signed a communique establishing diplomatic relations on June 1, but Costa Rica did not inform Taiwan until early yesterday morning.

Huang accused China of squeezing Taiwan's international space and warned Beijing that its suppression would not deter Taiwanese from pursuing independence and defending the nation's sovereignty.

Huang said he did not think Costa Rica's break with Taiwan would trigger a "domino effect" among Taiwan's allies and added that he believed Costa Rica was an "isolated case."

He said he had ordered all embassies abroad to work hard to consolidate diplomatic ties.

As for the amount of financial aid that China promised Costa Rica, Huang only said that it was "an astronomical sum" and Taiwan was unable to compete.

Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Tzu-pao (楊子葆) yesterday summoned Costa Rican Ambassador to Taiwan Mario Acon Chea (吳明廣) to voice Taiwan's anger and sadness about what he described as a "betrayal."

"We do not think it is right for people to give up friendship and universally-shared values because of intimidation and bribery," Yang told Chea, who refused to offer comment on his nation's move.

Costa Rica's move came less than a month after it surprised Taiwan by joining 147 other WHO members in voting "no" to Taiwan's bid for full membership under the name "Taiwan."

Five other Central American nations -- Nicaragua, Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras -- still maintain ties with Taiwan.

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