The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday remained confident that a visit by Sao Tomean President Manuel Pinto da Costa to China “would not be of a political nature,” according to an official who wished to remain anonymous.
Pinto da Costa left on Friday for a week-long visit to Shanghai and Beijing, according to various reports in Sao Tome and Principe, which said that the trip was based on a resolution of the Sao Tome and Principe National Assembly unanimously adopted on May 29.
The reports said the National Assembly gave assent to Pinto da Costa to leave the country on a private visit to China.
Pinto da Costa is the first president of Sao Tome and Principe to set foot in China since 1997 when it switched diplomatic recognition from China to Taiwan.
The ministry was told by the Sao Tomean government that Shanghai is the only destination of Pinto da Costa’s trip to China, ministry officials said.
The ministry was told that there would be no political or diplomatic official among Pinto da Costa’s entourage since the purpose of the trip was only to attract investment for his country, while no meeting of a political nature has been scheduled, the official said.
He said that Pinto da Costa had sought consent from the National Assembly to embark on the trip to find Chinese investment for the country’s deep-water port project estimated at US$500 million.
Last year, Sao Tomean Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Communication Natalia Pedro da Costa Umbelina Neto paid a visit to Beijing, accompanied by the president’s diplomatic advisor, Paulo Jorge do Espirito Santo Pajo.
A few days after the visit, China set up a trade representative office in Sao Tome and Principe.
Pinto da Costa has never visited Taiwan since he was re-elected as president in 2011.
Taiwan’s Ambassador to Sao Tome and Principe Jack Cheng (程豫台) said yesterday that Pinto da Costa is scheduled to visit Taiwan after its parliamentary election at the end of the year.