Tue, Nov 09, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Foreign ministry tries to clear up Vanuatu links

FORMAL RELATIONS Questions about the details of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the Pacific nation and Taiwan remain after several days of conflicting reports

CNA AND AP , TAIPEI AND WELLINGTON

Taiwan and Vanuatu have established formal diplomatic relations after detailed assessments and the two allies are expected to swap ambassadors in two weeks, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂) said yesterday.

Fielding a question from Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Yen Ching-fu (顏錦福) at the legislature's Foreign and Overseas Affairs Committee about the validity of diplomatic ties with the South Pacific country, Kau said the ties "should be no problem" and envoys will be exchanged soon.

Answering questions raised by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator John Chang (章孝嚴) on the veracity of the report that the government will provide some US$27 million in grants to Vanuatu next year, Kau said that Taiwan has so far not promised any specific amount of cash aid to Vanuatu.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has only promised that Taiwan will talk with the Vanuatuan government about financial aid after the two countries forge full-fledged diplomatic ties, Kau said.

Kau denied categorically that the government has promised to give Vanuatu a grant of US$27 million as reported by a wire service.

The legislators said that since formal diplomatic relations were established on Nov. 3 there has been much noise that Vanuatuan Prime Minister Serge Vohor's signing of the joint communique with Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) was a "personal act" without the prior approval of the Vanuatuan government.

Kau said Taiwan and Vanuatu did sign a joint communique establishing formal diplomatic ties and that Taiwan will establish its embassy in Vanuatu's capital of Port-Vila shortly. He added that Vohor has given his word to the foreign ministry that the Vanuatuan parliament will support his move.

Speaking after several days of confusion, Vanuatu government spokesman Kalvau Moli said yesterday that formal recognition had been granted to Taipei.

"We are extending diplomatic recognition to Taiwan ... based on negotiations over several years," he said, adding the Cabinet was expected to ratify the pact tomorrow.

Moli said the agreement was signed in Taipei last week, adding that Vanuatu "has a `one China' policy" and "is not ditching" diplomatic links with China.

Beijing is reported to have asked the islands' nation to clarify the diplomatic situation.

Moli said Vanuatu "is not placing China in a situation where they have to withdraw. If they feel they have to withdraw it's of their own will."

Moli said in a phone interview that Taipei had offered the cash grant over five years "in good faith" and "with no strings attached."

He said a budget shorfall means that Vanuatu "needs some financial assistance so the prime minister ... has sought that assistance and it will be ratified by a Council of Ministers on Wednesday."

China deposited US$2 billion with Vanuatu's Reserve Bank last week for "restructuring in education," Moli said.

It was unclear exactly when the deposit was made.

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