Wed, May 09, 2018 - Page 3 News List

New ally list does not exist: minister

DEMOCRACY DIPLOMACY:The foreign ministry has created an Indo-Pacific section, potentially in response to Alex Wong’s praise of Taiwan as an example for the region

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) yesterday rejected allegations that the government has a list of potential new diplomatic allies, saying that the government has no plans to establish new diplomatic ties and would focus on the nation’s existing allies.

Wu made the remarks in Taipei at his first gathering with the media since taking the helm of the ministry in February, during which he was asked whether the ministry has a list as his predecessor, David Lee (李大維), had told a legislative session in December 2016.

“The foreign ministry does not have such a list. We should focus on strengthening ties with our existing diplomatic allies and let them see that the assistance we are offering them is substantial and vital to maintaining ties with us,” Wu said.

He also said that Taipei would not engage in a checkbook diplomacy war with Beijing, something that Taiwanese strongly oppose, according to opinion polls conducted by the ministry.

Asked if the ministry would adopt any new strategies to counter China’s reinforced attempts to poach the nation’s diplomatic allies, Wu said that relying on political and economic status alone to maintain the relationships would be challenging, so the government would also seek to win the recognition of major world powers through its democratic performance.

The minister also urged the public to refrain from speculating which of the nation’s diplomatic allies is next in line to sever ties, as “doing so would not be conducive to our efforts to maintain these relations.”

The Dominican Republic on Monday last week severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the third nation to do so in two years, reportedly to receive US$3.094 billion in investment from China.

Wu also announced the establishment of an Indo-Pacific section at the ministry’s Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, which is to become operational on Friday and would be tasked with handling affairs concerning Australia, New Zealand, India and other nations in the region.

The section was created by renaming one of the department’s existing sections and dividing its responsibilities, Wu said, adding that the department was assigned six additional employees in light of the expected increase in its workload due to the government’s New Southbound Policy.

“The change is in response to the current strategic situation,” Wu said.

The change is perceived to be a response to US President Donald Trump’s Indo-Pacific initiative. During a visit to Taiwan in late March, Alex Wong (黃之瀚), deputy assistant secretary at the US Department of State’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, praised Taiwan’s democracy and resulting development as an example for the Indo-Pacific region.

Regarding Taiwan-Japan ties, Wu dismissed concerns that the two nations’ friendship would be affected as China-Japan relations warm ahead of today’s scheduled meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) in Tokyo.

There has also been speculation that Beijing is to lift its ban on Japanese food imports that was implemented following the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear crisis.

“The information we have gathered from our Japanese friends suggests that improvements in China-Japan ties would not influence Japan’s relations with us and that all bilateral interactions would continue,” Wu said.

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