Sat, Nov 06, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Vanuatu PM goes home to questions

AFP AND STAFF WRITER , Port Vila, Vanuatu, and Taipei

Vanuatu Prime Minister Serge Vohor defended his surprise move to forge diplomatic links with Taiwan yesterday, saying the move need not jeopardise links with China.

Arriving back in his homeland after a diplomatic mission to Taipei that caught his own government and Taiwan's arch-rival Beijing off-guard, Vohors said he wanted both countries to give Vanuatu financial assistance.

"We want to work with both China and Taiwan together in our country in the Melanesian spirit of solidarity," Vohors told reporters. "Their fight has nothing to do with us and we want to be friends with both countries because we need the money."

Vohor did not give details on the financial assistance offered by Taiwan but his spokesman Kalvao Moli told the local Daily Post newspaper that Taipei had offered "up to three billion vatu (US$28 million) next year with no strings attached."

On Wednesday Vohor joined Taiwanese officials in Taipei to announce his country granting Taiwan diplomatic recognition.

A senior foreign affairs official in Vanuatu said he was shocked by the announcement as his country had a "one China" policy recognising Beijing's claim over Taiwan and at the time Vohor was believed to be travelling to Sinapore and Australia.

Vohor's action sparked claim and counter-claim from Beijing and Taipei over who had legitimate diplomatic ties.

Only two months ago, on September 10, Vohor visited China and met President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) to reaffirm that Vanuatu would continue to recognise Beijing.

On his return from Taipei, Vohor voiced concerns about delays receiving promised funds from Beijing over the years and said he wanted to maintain ties with both China and Taiwan.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said that he was unclear as to where the figure of US$28 million had come from. He explained that since establishing ties with the Vanuatu, Taiwan had been discussing various plans for cooperation with the South Pacific nation, but that projects had not yet been legally settled.

"As cooperation plans are still be negotiated, the ministry cannot possibly reveal the amount of financial contributions to be made," Lu said.

Additional reporting by joy su

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