Thu, Feb 05, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Malawi unhappy with Beijing ties

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan will not consider retaking Malawi as a diplomatic ally, despite rumors of the African country’s discontent with Beijing, a senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said yesterday after local media reported that Lilongwe regretted abandoning Taiwan in December 2007.

The officials, who asked not to be named, said that under the “diplomatic truce” with Beijing, Taipei would not take back a former ally because such a move could sabotage recent cross-strait rapprochement and rekindle the traditional hostility on the diplomatic front.

“If someone breaks up with you, but later wants to get back with you because he got dumped, would you take him back?” said the official, adding that if Taiwan were to take back Malawi, Beijing would not hesitate to lure more of Taipei’s remaining 23 allies.

Allies including Paraguay, Panama and Guatemala had been rumored to be on the verge of switching recognition prior to the cross-strait detente, but Beijing’s reluctance had undermined their desire, he said.

Taipei cut ties with Malawi after 42 years of friendship in December 2007 after it was confirmed that Lilongwe had forged ties with Beijing. The break-up, leaving Taiwan with 23 allies, was a shock to the ministry, which said it had not seen it coming.

Beijing reportedly offered a US$6 billion financial package among other economic incentives in exchange for recognition by Lilongwe.

The Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper) reported yesterday that Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika was unhappy with Beijing because of its broken promises, a mistake he feared would hurt his chances for re-election.

Malawi’s Daily Times quoted Chinese Ambassador Lin Songtian (林松添) as saying that the construction of a new parliament building would be delayed for another 90 days because of “payment issues” with previous contractors.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (楊潔箎), who recently visited Malawi during an African tour, promised that despite the global financial crisis, Beijing would not abandon Africa.

Andrew Chang (張雲屏), head of MOFA’s Department of African Affairs, said that as far as he knows, during the trip Chang did not attempt to establish contact with Taiwan’s four allies on the continent — Burkina Faso, Swaziland, Sao Tome and Principe, and Gambia.

In related news, ministry spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) yesterday said that despite recent invitations, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had no short-term plans to visit Taiwan’s allies in Africa, but would not rule out the possibility for the second half of this year.

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