Taiwan did not pay a penny to Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 1999 when the two countries struck an agreement on the establishment of formal diplomatic relations that did not materialize, former minister of foreign affairs Jason Hu (胡志強) said on Saturday.
The Taichung mayor, who was foreign minister from 1997 to 1999, said that in July 1999, the then-PNG prime minister, accompanied by his foreign minister, met with him in Taipei for talks on the establishment of formal diplomatic ties between the two countries.
“The talks continued for three days and at the end, they asked for a huge amount of money as aid,” Hu said.
At that point, Hu said, he told the PNG officials that “where there is money, there are no diplomatic ties.”
Hu said he told the PNG guests that if they wanted to talk about diplomatic ties, they should not talk about money.
On the eve of their departure, Hu recounted, the PNG leader told Hu that PNG would forge formal ties with Taiwan even if there was no financial aid.
Consequently, Hu said, he signed a communique with the PNG prime minister and foreign minister on July 5, 1999, on the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Surprisingly, the prime minister told his country’s parliament on his return to PNG that “Taiwan was willing to provide PNG with millions of US dollars in return for the establishment of bilateral ties,” Hu said.
“Later, the then-PNG prime minister was forced out of office on a parliamentary no-confidence vote and the plan to forge diplomatic links was scuppered,” Hu said.
Hu said that based on his own experience and Taiwan’s diplomatic history with PNG, he considered PNG “an unreliable and unpredictable country.”
Noting that foreign ministers and professional diplomats should have understood the twists and turns that Taiwan had encountered in its efforts to establish closer ties with PNG, Hu said he felt sorry for the outgoing Democratic Progressive Party administration and its foreign affairs officials.
He said seemed not to have picked up any hints from past lessons and experiences.
Commenting on the scandal, Hu said it could have been avoided if there were no “upstairs instructions” and professionalism was respected.
The question of whether the country should spend huge sums simply to increase its number of diplomatic allies is one that is worthy of deep reflection by the whole country, Hu said.