Wed, Jul 07, 2004 - Page 3 News List

MOFA says ties with Kiribati strong despite interference

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday said that relations between Taiwan and its newest ally, Kiribati, remain solid after the South Pacific nation's President Anote Tong voiced his fears that Beijing may be trying to engineer a change of government in his country.

Tong, who described the difficult decision to switch Kiribati's diplomatic ties from Beijing to Taipei last November during his visit to Taiwan in February, told reporters yesterday that three Chinese diplomats remaining in his country may be orchestrating "a change of government."

The former British colony will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of its independence on July 12. President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) appointed Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂) as his special envoy to attend the ceremony.

Kau, Director-General Gary Lin (林松煥) of the ministry's Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs and the rest of the delegation departed for Kiribati last Saturday. They will pay a visit to Tuvalu before flying to Kiribati.

Richard Shih (石瑞琦), the ministry's spokesman, said since Taiwan established diplomatic ties with Kiribati last November, high-ranking officials from both nations have traveled between the countries frequently.

Shih did not say whether Taiwan's embassy in Kiribati has tried to uncover the reason that Chinese diplomats in Kiribati have imported "large amounts of cargo; container loads."

Tong said he was concerned that the importation of the goods could be part of a Chinese plan to stage an unprecedented demonstration to protest Kiribati's decision to sever diplomatic ties with Beijing.

"It is inappropriate for our embassy to suggest how the Kiribati government should handle the Chinese diplomats," Shih said when he was asked for a response to Tong's remarks that his government has considered expelling the Chinese diplomats.

"Our technical mission has established a base and farms on Tarawa. Mission members have already started various kinds of vegetable and fruit-growing programs. President Tong appreciates the mission's initial achievements," the ministry said in a press release.

The Taiwanese technical mission used China's former satellite-monitoring base in Tarawa as its farm. The Kiribati government agreed to allot the premises to the mission shortly before former foreign minister Eugene Chien (簡又新) visited Kiribati in January.

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