The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday said that the government planned to discuss counter-piracy strategies in the Gulf of Aden with the US and EU in greater detail in the near future, but at the moment Washington has not offered nor agreed to provide escort for Taiwanese vessels.
MOFA Spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) said the ministry had not been authorized by the government to negotiate with any other country on counter-piracy measures, but remained ambiguous on what the US and Taiwanese governments had discussed on the topic.
On Tuesday, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) contacted the Central News Agency to issue a statement saying that the US had discussed the issue with the Taiwanese government and would offer maritime assistance to any vessel in distress.
Although the content offered no new developments, the timing sparked much speculation on why the US chose to release the statement, especially coming so soon after Chinese naval vessels escorted a ship owned by Formosa Plastics last week.
Beijing has also expressed a desire to offer escorts to Taiwanese boats in the troubled waters off the coast of Somalia.
In related news, MOFA yesterday said the annual leadership summit with the nation’s African allies had been called off indefinitely, saying that bilateral relations with the four countries — Sao Tome and Principe, Gambia, Swaziland and Burkina Faso — remained robust.
Andrew Chang (張雲屏), the head of MOFA’s African affairs department, said none of Taiwan’s allies sent delegates to meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) while he was in the region last week. China also did not try to contact Taiwan’s allies.
• Beijing has offered to escort Taiwanese vessels in the Gulf of Aden
• Annual leadership summits with Taiwan’s diplomatic relations in Africa have been called off indefinitely
• MOFA says that Beijing’s hand off approach in Africa was proof the diplomatic truce was working
Chang said Beijing’s hands-off attitude was an indication that it was slowly acquiescing to the diplomatic truce extended by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) when he took office in May.
Meanwhile, MOFA said that despite an extremely low visa-refusal rate of less than 1 percent and the issuance of e-passports, the possibility that Taiwan would be included in the EU visa-waiver program remained slim.
Taiwan recently announced that Latvian passport holders can now enjoy a 30-day visa-free stay in Taiwan, making it the 28th European country to be granted visa-waiver privileges.