Tue, Jan 15, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Malawi, Taiwan end 42-year relations

'GREATEST INSULT' Malawi's decision to establish diplomatic relations with Beijing did not come as a surprise. But the timing could not have been worse, MOFA said

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan terminated its 42-year-long diplomatic relations with Malawi after the southeastern African country agreed to switch its allegiance to Beijing, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced at an emergency press conference at 6:30pm yesterday, two hours after Lilongwe notified Taipei of its intentions.

"In order to safeguard Taiwan's national dignity, we hereby announce the Republic of China government will immediately cease all diplomatic ties with the government of Malawi," MOFA Deputy Minister Yang Tzu-pao (楊子葆) said, decrying Beijing's continuing oppression of Taiwan.

Yang urged Malawi to follow international protocol by ensuring the safety of Taiwanese nationals who reside or do business in Malawi despite the end of formal diplomatic relations.

All non-governmental relations should also continue, Yang said.

The Chinese foreign ministry had yet to post the news on its Web site.

Taipei berated Malawi for announcing its decision while Minister James Huang (黃志芳) and President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) were on a visit to Central America.

MOFA called the untimely break-up the "greatest insult" to the people of Taiwan and said that Lilongwe had failed to behave as a democratic country.

Yesterday's move left Taiwan with only 23 allies.

Malawi was the fourth country to break relations with Taiwan since 2006 after Senegal, Chad and Costa Rica. There has been speculation that the Marshall Islands and Guatemala could soon follow suit.

Yang called on Taiwan's remaining allies -- especially the four in Africa -- to "stay strong and not be persuaded by Beijing's temptations."

"Taiwan offers utmost sincere friendship to its allies. [Unlike China], Taiwan has no ambition of colonizing or abusing the people of its friendly nations. All relations between Taiwan and its allies are based on an equal footing that is mutually beneficial to both sides," he said.

Lilongwe had been ambiguous about its warming relations with China since before Christmas, when the Nyasa Times reported the imminent break-up.

It was reported that several high ranking Malawian officials had signed a memorandum of understanding with their Chinese counterparts in Beijing two months earlier, binding Malawi to the so-called "one-China" principle.

During a press conference last month, Huang confirmed that China had offered a US$6 billion financial package to lure Lilongwe. He urged Malawi to analyze its options and warned of the broken promises Beijing had made to allies it wooed away from Taiwan.

Yang said the ministry first noticed Beijing's interest in sabotaging Taiwan-Malawian ties at the annual UN assembly in September.

"But since then, we have reassured Malawi of our sincere, unwavering friendship," Yang said.

The break-up became more evident when Malawian President Bingu wa Matharika and foreign minister Joyce Hilda Banda refused to meet Huang earlier this month after he flew to Malawi in a last-ditch effort to salvage relations.

Huang was forced to make a last-minute detour to Swaziland, where he inked a 10-year bilateral cooperation pact with its foreign minister.

Banda said that Lilongwe had had to turn down Huang's visit because the government was on break for a national holiday.

Yang said that all diplomatic affairs -- including all Taiwan sponsored humanitarian aid and projects -- would cease immediately.

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