Mon, May 16, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Foreign affairs minister visits Caribbean allies

AP , BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS

The minister of foreign affairs started a tour of two Caribbean countries yesterday to shore up support in a region where islands have increasingly switched allegiance to rival China.

Mark Chen's (陳唐山) visit to St. Kitts and St. Vincent comes four months after Grenada established relations with China, leaving Taiwan with only four allies in the Caribbean. The other two are Haiti and the Dominican Republic, though China has commercial missions in both countries.

Chen arrived yesterday evening in St. Kitts and Nevis, where he will present the government with a US$1.5 million grant to help the Caribbean nation revamp its sports facilities ahead of the 2007 Cricket World Cup.

It's the third donation Taiwan has granted to help St. Kitts prepare for the cup, which the West Indies is hosting. St. Kitts and Taiwan have had relations for more than 21 years, and Taiwan provides the Caribbean country with US$200,000 annually for medical equipment and scholarships.

Chen starts a three-day visit to St. Vincent and the Grenadines tomorrow. He will meet with St. Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and donate two vehicles to a police stations.

"Relations with those two countries are very smooth and very strong," said Franklin Chen, a counselor at the Taiwanese Embassy in St. Kitts. "Of course, we have to strengthen relations with our current allies."

In recent years, China's growing economic clout has persuaded several Caribbean countries to sever decades-old ties with Taiwan.

The most recent was Grenada, which established ties with Beijing in January despite Taiwan's offer of US$40 million to help the island rebuild its cricket stadium after Hurricane Ivan.

China signed an agreement in March to help Grenada rebuild its stadium, construct houses, and provide scholarships.

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