Wed, Nov 24, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Foreign ministry defends approach to Vanuatu

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs defended yesterday its approach to establishing diplomatic ties with Vanuatu as senior diplomats reportedly flew to the South Pacific islands to prevent China from damaging the newly-established relationship.

Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂) and Gary Lin (林松煥), director general of the Department of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, left for Vanuatu on Saturday, media reports said.

Donald Lee (李傳通), Lin's deputy, spoke at a routine press conference on behalf of Lin yesterday. However, he declined to confirm the where-abouts of the two men.

Vanuatu Prime Minister Serge Vohor joined a two-hour special session in parliament yesterday morning, where he was asked by the opposition party to explain the nation's relations with Taiwan, Lee said.

"Vohor told the parliament that his decision to establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan was right. He noted that it was also the will of the people of Vanuatu," Lee said.

"The prime minister urged the parliamentarians to support the ties with Taiwan," Lee said.

Admitting there are differing opinions within the Vanuatuan government about Vohor's decision to build ties with Taiwan, Lee insisted the ministry has seen "positive developments in Taiwan's relations with its newest ally."

He said the Vanuatuan government will soon achieve consensus on the issue of Taiwan.

The contradictory remarks made by Vohor's office and other Vanuatuan officials regarding relations with Taipei in the past three weeks have prompted questions here over whether the ministry had mishandled the process of building ties with Vanuatu in its eagerness to increase the number of allies.

Ministry spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) defended the ministry's signing a diplomatic communique with Vohor in Taipei three weeks ago while keeping most of Vanuatu's officials, including its foreign minister, in the dark.

Responding to media criticism, Lu said the ministry "racks its brain" to build diplomatic ties in order to expand opportunities for the nation in the international community.

Calling the diplomatic difficulties Taiwan faces "universally unique," Lu blamed China for the oscillating nature of Taiwan-Vanuatu relations. He also said that without the China factor, the people of Taiwan would not have had to watch a diplomatic "soap opera."

"Since we signed the diplomatic communique with Vanuatu on Nov. 3, China has done everything it could to sabotage the ties. The ministry must continue fighting the diplomatic war," Lu said.

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