Mon, Jan 28, 2008 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Kittitian minister talks diplomatic relations, tourism

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

St. Kitts and Nevis Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade, Industry and Commerce talks about relations with Taiwan during an interview with the Taipei Times yesterday.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

The friendship between St. Kitts and Nevis and Taiwan remains strong and unwavering, the Caribbean nation's foreign minister Timothy Harris said yesterday in an interview with the Taipei Times.

Harris is in Taipei to attend the grand opening of his nation's embassy today, 25 years after diplomatic ties with Taipei were forged in 1984.

The embassy, which he described as a "historic milestone," will be the first St. Kitts and Nevis has opened in Asia. It is also the first embassy to be set up in Taipei by one of Taiwan's six Caribbean allies.

Harris noted that over the past two-and-a-half decades, Basseterre, the capital of St. Kitts and Nevis, has been an outspoken advocate for Taiwan's bids to enter various international organizations, such as the WHO and the UN.

At the UN last September, Harris told the General Assembly that "it is a grave concern that 23 million people of Taiwan have been denied the right of participation in the UN and its related bodies."

The minister, who publicly supported Taiwan's UN bid using the name "Taiwan" last year, said regardless of the result of Taiwan's upcoming UN referendums, his government would fully back the will of the Taiwanese people.

Harris confirmed that Beijing has never relented in its effort to lure Taiwan's diplomatic allies, but assured Taiwanese that their nation has many good friends who are promoting Taiwan in the Caribbean.

Taiwan's other Caribbean allies are Belize, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, St. Lucia and St.Vincent and the Grenadines.

When asked about his views on the alleged shaky ties between Taiwan and St. Lucia, the minister said that, although he was not authorized to speak on behalf of another nation, he believed relations were "very strong" and that the St. Lucian government was deeply committed to its alliance with Taipei.

Harris also encouraged more Taiwanese businessmen to invest in St. Kitts and Nevis, especially in the tourism industry. He said foreign investors can enjoy a certain level of tax breaks depending on the size of their investment.

Taiwanese tourists were also welcome to visit the tropical nation for leisure, he said. Taiwanese passport holders do not need a visa to travel to St. Kitts and Nevis.

He also called for more Kittitian students to study in Taiwan and take advantage of the quality education available here.

These students, he said, would then become Taiwan's best ambassadors upon graduation, when they go home or venture off to other parts of the world.

The embassy's opening will take place this afternoon in Tienmu. Kittitian Prime Minister Denzil Douglas and Foreign Minister James Huang (黃志芳) are expected to speak at the engagement.

Douglas will be accompanied by several other St. Kitts and Nevis officials, including Charge d'Affaires Jasmine Huggins and Minister of Agriculture Cedric Roy Liburd, who will sign a technical cooperation memorandum of understanding with Huang.

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