Sun, May 23, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Paraguay will not jilt Taiwan

NO TRADE OFFICE Several opposition parties in the South American nation had defied their president by hosting a Chinese delegation, but apparently that's the end of that

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Nicanor Duarte Frutos, the president of Paraguay, said yesterday that he would not allow Beijing to set up a trade office in his country. Duarte also dismissed rumors that Paraguay and China are seeking to establish official ties.

Duarte, who traveled to Taiwan to attend President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) inauguration, said that Paraguay would not pursue diplomatic relations with China in any form in the foreseeable future.

Concern over relations with Paraguay -- the only South American country that recognizes Taiwan -- were heightened last month when Paraguay's four main opposition parties invited an official Chinese delegation to pay a five-day visit to the nation.

The visit broke a rule that Duarte had set which forbade official exchanges with Beijing.

During the delegation's stay, its members proposed opening a Beijing trade office in Paraguay, and suggested that the two countries become diplomatic allies.

Duarte said the Chinese delegation's activities and statements in Paraguay "seriously damaged the Paraguayan government's reputation and dignity."

The Chinese delegation's behavior prompted the Paraguayan government to review the country's policies regarding the issuance of visas to people from China, Duarte said.

The president said Paraguayan policy does not allow issuing visas to Chinese officials.

"Our government will now tighten regulations that concern issuing visas to ordinary Chinese citizens and businesspeople," he said.

Since Dominica switched its diplomatic recognition to China at the end of March, Beijing has continued to make efforts to steal away Taiwan's allies in the region, which Taiwan views as a diplomatic stronghold.

Taiwan has 13 allies remaining in Latin America.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently dismissed rumors that Panama and Honduras were considering the possibility of establishing diplomatic relations with China.

This morning, Chen and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) will accompany Duarte on a visit to the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center in Tainan.

Mark Chen will also show Duarte around Tainan City Government facilities and Fort Provintia, a historical site. Chen Shui-bian will host a banquet in Duarte's honor at Tainan's Landis Hotel tonight.

Emphasizing that Paraguay and Taiwan enjoy a diplomatic relationship of long standing, Duarte said that loans, training and technical assistance that Paraguay has received from Taiwan have helped to reduce the country's poverty.

Duarte said that Paraguay has allocated the resources that Taiwan has provided in appropriate ways.

"We hope to further develop trade relations with Taiwan," Duarte said.

Duarte and Chen Shui-bian will sign a joint communique tomorrow. Duarte will also witness a contract-signing ceremony in which Taiwan will extend a loan worth US$30 million to Paraguay.

On Friday, Duarte attended a trade meeting with Taiwanese businessmen and talked to government agencies about exporting Paraguayan beef to Taiwan.

Chen Shui-bian will bid farewell to Duarte in a ceremony at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall tomorrow. Duarte is scheduled to leave Taipei tomorrow afternoon.

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