Fri, Aug 15, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Lugo says Paraguay to maintain ties

HOLDING STEADYThe incoming Paraguayan president said on Wednesday that the country would maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan after he assumes office today

By Shih Hsiu-Chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER, IN ASUNCION

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was to meet with Paraguayan president-elect Fernando Lugo yesterday in Asuncion amid unease over his previous claim that his country would switch ties to China if it does not receive US$71 million in foreign aid from Taiwan.

Lugo, who was elected president in April, ending 61 years of Colorado Party rule, will be sworn in as president today, with Ma being the first head of states to arrive for his inauguration.

During his campaign, Lugo raised the issue of switching diplomatic allegiance from Taipei to Beijing should he win, and two days after the election he said that he could not turn a deaf ear to the increasingly strong call from both the Paraguayan parliament and society for establishing ties with China.

But the incoming president appeared to backtrack on the matter when he told local media on Wednesday that Paraguay would maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan after he assumes office. He said that cooperation projects between the two countries would extend to the agriculture sector.

The Central News Agency (CNA) reported that Taiwan’s Representative to Paraguay, Hu Cheng-yao (胡正堯), said that Lugo told him his interests in advancing the country’s relationship with China didn’t necessarily mean that Paraguay would sever ties with Taiwan.

Hu said in the report that during the meeting with Ma, Lugo reiterated his determination to uphold his country’s longstanding cordial ties with Taiwan.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) said he “didn’t understand the causes of the change” when he was asked why the good news came ahead of Ma’s arrival.

When asked whether the government is in the process of assessing Lugo’s aid request, Ou told reporters, “The figure was what he hoped for, but we wanted him to come up with concrete projects [where the money will be used].”

After assuming office, Ma called for a “diplomatic truce” between Taiwan and China in an attempt to end checkbook diplomacy conducted by both sides of the Strait, raising concern that the Ma administration would suspend aid programs agreed-upon by the previous government.

Ou said that his government would stick with existing aid projects, but would place more importance on technology or experience transfer than donations and would also make sure that the money given to the nation’s allies is spent in a transparent way.

As some of the nation’s allies are relatively poor, the aid from Taiwan can help these countries a lot, Ou said.

Ou said presidential candidates from the nation’s allies often hint at establishing ties with China because they think it will earn them votes, but once in power, they know that having ties with Taiwan is beneficial to their countries.

He said that Ma would not promise new aid programs during his trip but would study any requests he receives.

Meanwhile, Ou said that aid was not brought up during Ma’s talks with Panamanian President Martin Torrijos in Panama earlier yesterday.

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