Taiwan would not sever ties with El Salvador if the Central American country established relations with China, Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) said yesterday in response to a lawmaker’s question.
Salvadoran president-elect Mauricio Funes has repeatedly promised to switch ties to Beijing upon taking office in June.
“Will Taiwan break ties with El Salvador if it establishes ties with China?” Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Yang Li-huan (楊麗環) asked Ou at a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee.
“No,” Ou replied resolutely and without elaborating.
When asked by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) about the state of ties with El Salvador, Ou said: “According to my assessment, El Salvador will not terminate ties with Taiwan. I am confident about that.”
Ministry spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) later told reporters that ties with El Salvador were strong and Taiwan would strive to deepen the allegiance.
Taiwan does not wish to see El Salvador and China become diplomatic allies, he said, but would not be opposed to their developing closer trade relations.
Later yesterday, Presidential Office spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said the government would not recognize diplomatic ties between the nation’s allies and China.
“We would not oppose any substantial relationship between our allies and China, but of course we would not acknowledge mutual acceptance,” he said.
Wang also said Taiwan would not try to establish ties with China’s allies.
Agence France-Presse reported that Funes, who heads the Frente Farabundo Marti para Liberacion Nacional (FMLN), said he would discuss San Salvador’s links with Beijing with Taiwan’s envoy as well as with Chinese officials in San Salvador. The report said Funes insisted the “type of relation” his government has with Taiwan and Beijing would “be dealt with later on” in his administration.
Funes was quoted as saying he was “interested in closer” trade ties with China, given its immense size.
“We are very aware of [Funes’] leftist stance and we have established communication with him to explain the importance of the bilateral link,” Ou said at the legislature.
But Tsai expressed skepticism, saying El Salvador may be following Paraguay’s example by fishing for money from Taiwan in exchange for continued ties.
Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, also a staunch leftist, indicated repeatedly during his campaign last year that he was open to ties with China.
During his Latin American tour earlier this month, Ou said Taiwan had agreed in principle to allow Paraguay to defer repayment of US$400 million in loans.
“There are talks in diplomatic circles that Taiwan’s so-called diplomatic truce and flexible diplomacy have only made it an easier target for extortion from our remaining 23 allies,” Tsai said, demanding Ou promise to step down if Taiwan lost any more allies.
Ou said the efficacy of diplomatic efforts should not be determined by an isolated event.
“We should not only focus on the number of our allies,” but also on the progress we make in relations with non-allies, he said.
Ou declined to say whether President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) would attend Funes’ inauguration on June 1, but said he was certain El Salvador, like other allies in the past, would extend an invitation.
When contacted for comment, Ambassador to El Salvador Francisco Santana yesterday declined to be interviewed.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MO YAN-CHIH
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