Fri, Nov 19, 2004 - Page 3 News List

MOFA still jittery over strength of Vanuatu ties

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AP

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was on pins and needles again yesterday in the struggle with China over Vanuatu as the South Pacific island's Cabinet met, reportedly to discuss the new ties.

Although the Cabinet approved Prime Minister Serge Vohor's decision to establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan on Monday, it appeared that a formal meeting was necessary to give an official blessing to the ties.

An information official at Bei-jing's embassy on the island told a Taiwanese newspaper on Wednesday that Beijing would immediately cut ties as soon as the Cabinet gave its official approval to relations with Taiwan.

After keeping an eye on the Cabinet meeting all day yesterday, the ministry said last night that the Vanuatuan ministers hardly touched upon the issue of diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

"Our diplomats contacted Pipite Marcellino, Vanuatu's newly appointed foreign minister, to ask what happened in the meeting. They were told that the meeting mainly focused on internal affairs, ministry spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said.

Lu indicated that the Chinese diplomats might have been trying to sabotage Taipei-Port Vila relations by speaking untruthfully to the media.

Taiwan's embassy in Port Vila raised the national flag on Wednes-day after receiving a letter from the Vanuatuan government allowing it to do so.

Meanwhile, Beijing has admit-ted for the first time since Taiwan and Vanuatu signed a communique on Nov. 3 that "some problems" exist in its relations with Port Vila.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue ( 啟月) said that Beijing had solemnly requested the Vanuatu government to abide by the principles contained in its diplomatic communique with China.

"We hope the Vanuatu government can actually follow what it promised to do regarding the Tai-wan issue," she said at a press conference.

"Our ambassador to Vanuatu and other diplomats are still in Vanuatu and have been in contact with government officials. We asked Vanuatu to keep the `one China' policy," she said.

The Associated Press carried a special report on the diplomatic war over Vanuatu yesterday.

"Most outsiders who have heard of Vanuatu probably know the tiny Pacific island nation as the setting for the latest season of the high-stakes TV contest `Survivor,'"

the report said.

"Now, Vanuatu is the guest star in a different, even more lucrative competition: `Dollar Diplomacy,' the battle between China and rival Taiwan to woo diplomatic part-ners," the report said.

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