MOFA to consolidate ties with Eswatini

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Sep 05, 2018 - Page 3

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday said it would endeavor to consolidate its ties with the nation’s last remaining African ally, Eswatini, to the best of its ability after Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) pledged US$60 billion in financial support for projects in Africa.

Asked whether the ministry is worried the financial support could affect Taiwan’s 50 years of relations with Eswatini Department of West Asian and African Affairs Director-General Liu Bang-zyh (劉邦治) said the money would certainly create pressure on Eswatini.

“The ministry will keep a close eye on the issue, while doing our best to strengthen our relations with the African nation,” Liu told a routine news conference in Taipei.

Xi made the pledges at the opening ceremony of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation on Monday in Beijing, which was attended by representatives from the 53 African nations that have formal diplomatic relations with China.

The financial support is to be provided in the form of loans, investment and government assistance, Xi said, adding that China would also write off its interest-free loans to indebted African nations that are not paid off by the end of this year.

Liu said to his knowledge, Eswatini did not receive an invitation to the forum, despite Beijing’s repeatedly stated determination to bring the nation into its fold.

“I believe our ties with Eswatini are strong at the moment,” Liu said, citing as an example the participation of seven Taiwanese companies at the ongoing 11-day Eswatini International Trade Fair in Manzini.

In November, the Chinese International Economic Cooperation Association is to lead an agricultural business scouting delegation to Eswatini at the behest of the government, ministry spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) said.

President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration has endeavored to keep its last African ally as China has stepped up efforts to poach Taiwan’s diplomatic allies.

Beijing has converted five former Taiwanese allies in the past two years.

Tsai in April instructed the National Security Council to propose an “Africa Project” to increase the nation’s presence in Africa after concluding her state visit to Eswatini that month.

The ministry has also earmarked more than NT$600 million (US$19.5 million) in diplomatic spending for West Asia and Africa next year, an increase of almost NT$400 million, the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the sister paper of the Taipei Times) reported on Saturday.