Sun, Jun 18, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Diplomats to battle Beijing ‘head-on’

NO LONG GOODBYE:The nation only has 30 days to dismantle its embassy in Panama, rather than the two-to-three-month grace period Taipei requested

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee, second left, Taiwan’s former ambassador to Panama, Miguel Tsao, second right, and others in Taipei yesterday hold the Republic of China (ROC) flag that had flown at the embassy in Panama.

Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times

The nation’s foreign service is to battle on in the face China’s diplomatic offensive, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee (李大維) said yesterday, as he received the nation’s returning ambassador to Panama after the Central American country switched its alliance to Beijing last week.

“The current state of developments has clearly demonstrated that Beijing has decided to go on the offense, and in the face of this the only choice every member of the foreign service has is to face this battle head-on,” he said on arrival at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport to receive former ambassador to Panama Miguel Tsao (曹立傑).

“In my view, all members of the foreign service have continued to work hard and battle on, despite the difficult situation,” Lee said. “I have come [to the airport] to represent the ministry in supporting and affirming Tsao, as well as to express consolation for some injustices to which he has been subjected.”

Panama broke off relations less than one month after Tsao was sent to the nation as an ambassador and before he was able to present his credentials, leading to accusations by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators that he had been sent as a scapegoat to protect former ambassador Jose Maria Liu (劉德立), who was promoted to Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The loss of a second ally, after Sao Tome and Principe cut ties with Taiwan in December last year, has also renewed calls within the pan-green camp for Lee’s resignation.

Lee has served in multiple DPP administrations, but has a pan-blue background.

“Under these difficult circumstances, as long as our president believes that I can still do something for the diplomacy of the Republic of China, that is my unshirkable duty; I am duty-bound not to turn away,” he said yesterday.

Tsao presented Lee with the Republic of China flag which had flown over the nation’s embassy, choking up briefly as he greeted the minister.

“Minister, I did not accomplish the mission you assigned and our flag has come down. However, I brought it back because we in the foreign service will continue to work hard for our nation’s honor and dignity,” he said, adding that he would “never forget” the lowering of the flag and expressing confidence that it would be raised again.

Foreign service members had continued to fight to prevent the breaking off of relations until 10 minutes before Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela’s televised announcement, he said, adding that he had not had “any hesitation” in accepting the ambassadorial post in January because it was his “dream” and “battlefield.”

Meanwhile, reports emerged yesterday that Panama has demanded that the nation’s embassy be dismantled within 30 days, rather than the two to three months proposed by the nation’s diplomatic representatives.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said that discussions on dismantling the embassy would continue, adding that appropriate measures would be taken to protect the nation’s foreign property.

The arrangement of relations and handling of unfinished projects would also be left to future bilateral talks, the ministry said, adding that “now is not the time to consider” establishing an alternative representative office in the country.

Additional reporting by Chu Pei-hsiung and Lu Yi-hsuan

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