Taiwan-Paraguay diplomatic ties would remain strong even though Paraguayan president-elect Fernando Lugo has repeatedly said he would forge closer relations with Beijing, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday.
Diego Chou (周麟), the deputy head of MOFA’s Department of Central and South American Affairs, said the ministry is “confident” that Taiwan’s 50-year friendship with its only South American ally would remain strong and that bilateral ties would be further strengthened in the future.
“Lugo never made it clear what kind of relations he wanted to establish with Beijing. We have kept close contact with him and so far we have received very positive feedback from him,” Chou said at the ministry’s press conference yesterday.
As a Catholic clergyman, Lugo was very familiar with the grass roots nature of Taipei’s diplomacy, Chou said.
“Most of Taiwan’s humanitarian aid goes directly to the lower-middle class people. Lugo might have had a change of heart after realizing how much Taiwan has done for the welfare of their people,” he said.
MOFA Spokesman Henry Chen said on Tuesday that relations with Paraguay would be a strong indication of whether Beijing has any goodwill toward Taiwan, as it promised after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was elected in March.
“The important factor is whether Beijing is willing to accept Paraguay. If it does, then it is clear that Beijing is not interested in engaging in a diplomatic truce with Taiwan. But if it does not accept Paraguay, then we can interpret that as a goodwill gesture,” he said.
Ma is expected to attend Lugo’s inauguration ceremony on Aug. 15, before heading to the Dominican Republic the next day.
Ma is scheduled to make a refueling stop at Panama on the way to Asuncion. Chou said the ministry was still making the necessary arrangements for Ma to meet with Panamanian officials during his brief transit stop.
Chou said there was no need to raise a red flag on Taiwan-El Salvador ties despite vows by the country’s leading presidential candidate, Mauricio Funes, to switch ties if elected.
“We have established close contacts with the two major political parties. We are confident that bilateral relations will continue to foster, no matter which party wins the election,” he said.
El Salvador’s election is scheduled for March. Funes, a former CNN International commentator of the leftist Faraboundo Mari National Liberation Front, is leading by a 19 percent margin.