Despite the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ insistence that a Beijing-hosted forum with Central American and Carribbean states that included some of Taiwan’s allies last week was not political in nature, the summit concluded with participants declaring that they would tackle “political and diplomatic” issues.
The China-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit was held on Thursday and Friday. CELAC has 33 members, including 12 of Taiwan’s 22 diplomatic allies, with at least nine of them attending the forum.
According to a report by China’s Xinhuanet, the forum reached three conclusions: the “Beijing Declaration,” a five-year cooperation plan and regulations governing the China-CELAC summit.
The Beijing Declaration states that China and the participating Latin American countries would, under the framework of the forum and the principle of respecting one another’s sovereignty, hold meetings that touch on areas such as foreign affairs, politics and economics.
The ministry had said in a statement on Thursday that the forum would only focus on economics and not deal with politics.
The presence of Taiwan’s allies at the forum will not affect their diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and those allies had all informed the ministry beforehand, the ministry said at the time.
Panama, one of Taiwan’s Central American allies, also issued a statement on Saturday stating that the Beijing Declaration would reinforce cultural exchanges between China and Latin American counties.
The statement also quoted Panamanian Deputy Foreign Minister Luis Miguel Hincapie as proposing, on behalf of Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, that the next China-CELAC summit be held between the “heads of governments” to engage in the “highest-level” cooperation.
In response, MOFA spokeswoman Anna Kao (高安) said that Taiwan maintains robust diplomatic relations with Panama, which had informed the ministry that it would participate in the forum only as a member of a regional organization and that it promised to stay away from politics.
The ministry will continue to monitor developments, she added.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chiu Chih-wei (邱志偉) said the ministry was turning a blind eye to the fact that China is courting Taiwan’s Latin American allies.
Chiu questioned whether the ministry and the nation’s overseas missions have a full picture of the situation, and demanded a thorough account from the ministry.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said that China has been building an ever-stronger presence in Latin America, and the local anti-US sentiment has reinforced China’s influence in the region.
Taiwan’s ruling and opposition parties should unite on this front, instead of engaging in a futile blame game, he added.
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