Thu, Aug 17, 2006 - Page 3 News List

NZ blasts Taiwan's cash diplomacy

AGENCIES , HONIARA, SOLOMONS AND WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters yesterday singled out Taiwan as a destabilizing force in the Pacific, calling for an end to checkbook diplomacy.

Peters cited Taiwan's alleged role in this year's Solomon Islands riots as an example of the dangers of checkbook diplomacy in the Pacific.

Peters did not name any countries in a speech warning of "checkbook diplomacy" and other corrupt practices by foreign powers in the Pacific.

But in a later question-and- answer section at a regional conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in Wellington, he hit out at Taiwan.

"I think Taiwan's involvement in the recent blow-up in the Solomon Islands is irrefutable," Peters said.

"I think they were engaged in checkbook diplomacy," he said.

"I think the outcome was disastrous," he added.

Rioting which destroyed dozens of businesses owned by ethnic Chinese in the Solomon Islands capital Honiara in late April unseated prime minister Snyder Rini after just a week in office.

Rini had been accused of using money from local Chinese busi-nesses and Taiwan to bribe other legislators for support. Rini and Taiwan denied the allegations.

Peters said New Zealand and Australia, which sent in hundreds of troops to quell the rioting, were trying to repair the situation.

"I think we're entitled to say `Why don't you guys cut it out?'" he said.

Peters made no reference to China, although analysts have accused both China and Taiwan of destabilizing the region in their competition for diplomatic recognition among poor island nations.

Meanwhile, Rini's successor said yesterday that he would lead a delegation to New York next month to support Taiwan's latest bid to join the UN.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare made the announcement at a meeting with Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in Taipei, and released it in a statement in the islands' capital, Honiara.

He said Solomon Islands would continue its 23-year diplomatic recognition of Taiwan and would support the island's bid for UN membership at next month's meeting of the UN General Assembly.

"I will stand by you and your people. For this reason, I am not sending my foreign minister. I am going there myself as a prime minister," he said in the statement.

The announcement puts an end to speculation that Sogavare's four-month-old government was considering a shift toward China.

In early May, Sogavare said the Solomon Islands likely faced a significant change in foreign policy under his newly elected government -- hinting it would break links with Taiwan and recognize China instead.

He reversed that position less than two weeks later.

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