Fri, Jul 16, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Foreign ministry insists Dominican Republic ties `firm'

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday insisted that relations with the Dominican Republic remain firm, despite a senior Dominican Republic official's warning that his country may recognize Beijing.

The Dominican Republic's former Senate speaker, Ramon Alburquerque Ramirez, reportedly revealed during a banquet hosted by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) in Taipei last Thursday that president-elect Leonel Fernandez is considering establishing ties with China.

Alburquerque's warning came as Premier Yu Shyi-kun prepares his trip to the Caribbean state to attend Fernandez' inauguration ceremony on Aug. 16. Trade benefits are the main temptation for Fernandez to seek official relations with Beijing, Alburquerque was quoted as saying.

Ministry spokesman Richard Shih (石瑞琦) said, however, that Javier Hou (侯清山), director general of the ministry's department of Central and South American affairs, who also attended the banquet, did not hear Alburquerque use these words.

A legislator at the banquet leaked Alburquerque's conversation to reporters. Asked whether Alburquerque mentioned his country's possible recognition of Beijing to Wang, Shih replied: "I am not clear about this."

Hou could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Confident of the nation's ties with the Dominican Republic, Shih said Fernandez told John Feng (馮寄台), Taiwan's ambassador to the republic, on several public occasions that his nation would not establish ties with China.

"Taiwan has long-standing relations with the Dominican Republic ... and Fernandez has told Feng that he will continue his country's ties with Taiwan after his inauguration," Shih said.

"China has a trade office in the Dominican Republic. But the republic has said it would only maintain trade relations with China," he said.

Another example of healthy relations, Shih said, is that Fernandez has invited senior officials to attend his inauguration ceremony.

"President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has appointed Premier Yu to be his special envoy for the inauguration," he added.

Asked whether the report of a switch pointed to an attempt to obtain more financial aid from Taiwan ahead of Yu's visit, Shih stressed that Taiwan would never play checkbook diplomacy.

"All of our aid programs are designed to help people in local areas," he said.

A number of senior officials have visited Central and South American allies recently as China intensifies efforts to encroach on Taiwan's diplomatic territory.

Control Yuan President Fred-rick Chien (錢復) visited Panama last month. Yu's trip to the Dominican Republic aims to strengthen ties with that country, while Chen plans to visit several Latin American countries next month.

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