China trying to lure away diplomatic allies: report

DIVIDE AND CONQUER: Having recently received observer status in the OAS, Beijing has launched a campaign targeting Taiwan's allies, a US report states

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wed, Jun 08, 2005 - Page 2

China has done everything in its power block Taiwan's participation in the Organization of American States (OAS) since it became an observer of the body last year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

China, with its zero-sum game strategy in dealing with its relations with Taiwan, strongly opposed the OAS accepting Taiwan as an observer, ministry spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said.

Among the 35 member states of the OAS, 12 are diplomatic allies of Taiwan. OAS members that do not maintain official relations with Taiwan have also kept substantial interactions with Taipei, said Lu.

Lu made the comments after a Chinese-language newspaper published a report by the US Congressional Research Service (CRS) on China's growing interest in Latin America.

The report, presented by Kerry Dumbaugh and Mark Sullivan, specialists respectively in Asian and Latin American affairs, said that the Taiwan issue is among the factors driving China's expansion of economic and trade relationships with Latin America and the Caribbean.

"Taiwan, for decades a consistent provider of financial assistance and investment in Latin America and the Caribbean to nurture its remaining official relationships, is now hard-pressed to compete against the growing economic and political clout of China -- what one official in Taiwan referred to as China's `dollar diplomacy,'" the report said.

China's ability to develop and expand contacts with Taiwan's diplomatic allies in the region came after a decision by the OAS last year to accept China as a formal observer in the organization.

"Beijing has strongly objected to Taiwan's efforts to seek OAS observer status," the report said.

"Some observers suggest that if China succeeds in its quest to steal away Taiwan's Latin American and Caribbean relationships, the diminishment of Taiwan's ability to act on the world stage could seriously affect its international status," the report said.

Responding to the report, Lu said the ministry hopes the public understands the challenges Taiwan faces in Latin America and criticized Beijing for attempting to "annihilate" Taiwan by snatching away the latter's diplomatic allies in the region.

"We hope our domestic businesses can invest more in Latin America," Lu said.

Taiwan's official relations in the region now include all seven Central American countries -- Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama; four Caribbean countries -- the Dominican Republic, Haiti, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines; and one South American country -- Paraguay.

The CRS report recorded China's maneuvers over the past few years to lure Taiwan's diplomatic allies in Latin America to switch official ties from Taipei to Beijing.

"As an example, in 2004, Dominica severed relations with Taiwan after Beijing trumped Taiwan's US$9 million in assistance with a pledge of US$122 million in assistance to the tiny country over six years," the report said.

In September last year, China sent a "special police" peacekeeping contingent to Haiti, another of Taiwan's diplomatic allies, marking Beijing's first deployment of forces ever in the Western Hemisphere, the report stated.