Wed, May 02, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan, St. Lucia forge diplomatic ties

DIFFICULT ROAD Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang dubbed the resumption of ties a remarkable achievement in the face of China's expanding global influence

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan and St. Lucia formally resumed diplomatic relations as representatives from both countries signed a joint communique in the Caribbean country on Monday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced yesterday.

St. Lucia is Taiwan's 25th diplomatic ally.

Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳) flew to St. Lucia on Sunday and signed the Joint Communique on the Reestablishment of Diplomatic Relations with St. Lucia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Rufus Bousquet on Monday, said Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Tzu-pao (楊子葆) at a news press conference in Taipei.

Both sides officially announced the resumption of diplomatic ties in the signing ceremony in Castries, the capital of St. Lucia. Taiwan established its embassy on the island on the same day in accordance with the joint communique, Yang said.

The establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries has been dogged by with controversy, not only from China but also within Taiwan.

Taiwan and St. Lucia first set up diplomatic relations in 1984 when John Compton served as prime minister. However, St. Lucia severed ties with Taipei in 1997 when then prime minister Kenny Anthony switched recognition to Beijing. Compton came back to power last December.

On April 25, Bousquet announced in Congress that St. Lucia intended to set up ties with Taiwan.

In Taipei, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) made the announcement during his presidential campaign rally on April 26. Su subsequently came under fire from opposition Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) for disclosing the information prematurely, or before diplomatic ties were formally established.

St. Lucia Fast Facts

* Location: east of the Caribbean Sea, bordering the Atlantic Ocean; one of the Windward Islands.

* Capital: Castries.

* Official language: English.

* Government: Parliamentary.

* Territory: 620 km2.

* Population: About 170,000.

* History: St. Lucia became an independent state of the Commonwealth of Nations on Feb. 22, 1979.

* Interesting facts: Arthur Lewis, Nobel Prize laureate in economics in 1979, and Derek Walcott, Nobel Prize winner in literature in 1992, hail from St. Lucia.

The restoration of diplomatic ties between St. Lucia and Taiwan has the full support of Compton and his Cabinet, Yang said.

Huang, who is in St. Lucia, called in during a news conference, saying that it was a remarkable achievement for Taiwan to be able to win a new friend despite the tremendous pressure from China.

"It shows that the image of `Taiwan' is highly valued in internationally," Huang said.

Huang said his joy was tempered by the fact that despite having made a new ally, Taiwan still faces a tough diplomatic future because of China's expanding global influence.

Huang said Taiwan had never asked St. Lucia to severe diplomatic relations with China during the negotiations for the resumption of ties.

"Taiwan has no intention of playing a `zero-sum game' with China. We hope St. Lucia, Taiwan and China can all be winners in the diplomatic arena," he said.

Asked whether Taiwan would offer St. Lucia economic aid, Huang said that Taiwan would offer the same cooperation pact it has with other diplomatic allies, including agricultural development, information technology, handicrafts, medicine and education.

"Taiwan can never compete with China when it comes to `checkbook diplomacy.' As far as I know, what China offered St. Lucia would stun anyone. Taiwan would never do that," Huang said. "Taiwan wins friendship with its sincerity and reputation."

A senior foreign ministry official, who requested anonymity, said that Gary Lin (林松煥), head of the economic and cultural development office that represents Taiwan in Canberra, should be credited with the diplomatic feat. The official did not elaborate.

Lin, a senior diplomat who worked for the ministry for more than 20 years, has served as the director-general of the Department of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, ambassador to the Marshall Islands and charge d'affaires to St. Lucia.

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