MOFA has no comment on ‘checkbook’ diplomacy

Staff Writer, with CNA

Fri, May 13, 2011 - Page 3

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday refused to comment on a WikiLeaks cable released on Sunday that comments on how Taiwan maintains its diplomatic relationships.

According to the cable, Taiwan sought to solidify diplomatic relations with the Republic of Panama by “donating” a total of US$47 million after Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli was elected in 2009.

Ministry spokesman James Chang (章計平) said the government would not make any comment regarding Taiwan’s alleged “checkbook diplomacy” with Panama since the source of the information was the US.

The WikiLeaks cable, titled “No Recognition for PRC Anytime Soon — Panama Sticks with Taiwan,” was declassified by former US ambassador to Panama Barbara Stephenson on Feb. 23 last year.

The cable said that Taiwan used money as an incentive to retain the support of Martinelli, who had indicated that he wanted to establish diplomatic ties with China during his presidential campaign.

To change his mind, the Taiwan government donated US$25 million to build a hospital on the outskirts of Panama City and also presented an Embraer Legacy 600 executive business jet worth US$22 million as a gift, the cable said.

The cable said that “the government of Taiwan has historically used financial incentives to sweeten its relationship with Panama,” including giving the country US$125 million a year during the administration of former president Martin Torrijos.

Taiwan currently has official diplomatic relations with Panama.

Chang yesterday said that every diplomatic project is conducted only after transparent evaluation the potential benefits to local people.

However, Chang said that diplomatic considerations made it impossible for him to confirm or deny whether the government had given financial aid to Panama or any other country.