Minister dismisses KMT’s checkbook diplomacy concerns

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Thu, May 24, 2018 - Page 3

Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) yesterday dismissed public concerns that Taiwan might be reviving a diplomatic bidding war with China, saying that the nation’s provision of strategic loans to diplomatic allies could help create a “win-win-win” situation.

Wu made the remarks at a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee, where he faced questions about Taiwan agreeing to Solomon Islands Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela’s request for financial assistance for his nation to host the 2023 Pacific Games.

Houenipwela made the request at a banquet hosted by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Monday, just days after the Miami Herald on Thursday last week reported that the Tsai administration had agreed to a US$150 million low-interest loan for Haiti to build rural power grids.

“If we can provide assistance to our diplomatic allies for their national development projects through strategic loans, that is a ‘win-win-win’ strategy,” Wu said on the sidelines of the meeting.

The minister said that by helping the nation’s allies obtain loans, it would benefit the allies themselves, Taiwan’s relations with them, as well as Taiwanese companies, which could invest in and bid for the projects.

He added that all cooperation programs with Haiti are still being deliberated.

Haiti is one of the nation’s remaining 19 allies that have been flagged by observers as potentially switching sides to Beijing.

Since the Tsai administration took office in May 2016, the nation has lost three diplomatic allies to Beijing — Sao Tome and Principe in December 2016, Panama in June last year and the Dominican Republic last month.

After Wu criticized Beijing for poaching Taipei’s allies with pledges of large sums of money, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lee Yen-hsiu (李彥秀) asked Wu what set Taiwan’s strategies of “steadfast diplomacy” and “mutual assistance for mutual benefits” apart from China’s “checkbook diplomacy.”

“Checkbook diplomacy, by my definition and which is what China has been doing, is promises of large amounts of financial aid... It is a bidding game in which China offers 10, 20 or even 100 times what we are offering in assistance,” Wu said.

Taiwan is not looking for diplomatic competition, but rather the ability to offer real and substantial assistance to its allies, he added.

Lee further pressed Wu on whether he regarded the Pacific Games as an infrastructure project that could improve the quality of life of Solomon Islanders, citing local media reports that put the pledge by Taiwan to the South Pacific nation at NT$900 million (US$30.04 million).

“Yes it is an infrastructure project. Although the venue for the Games is still being designed, it can be used by generations of people on the Solomon Islands after the event,” Wu said, adding that the design and construction of the venue would be carried out by Taiwanese companies.