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Archive for the ‘Lone Island of Taiwan’ Category

El Salvador, Taiwan break ties as China isolates island foe

August 21, 2018

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan broke off diplomatic ties with El Salvador on Tuesday as the Central American country defected to rival Beijing in the latest blow to the self-ruled island China has been trying to isolate on the global stage.

The break in ties means Taiwan is recognized as a sovereign nation by only 17 mainly small, developing countries. In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced that his government had established ties with El Salvador.

“History will prove that establishing diplomatic relations with China is in full accordance with the fundamental and long-term interests of the country and the people of El Salvador,” Wang said. Taiwan split from mainland China amid civil war in 1949, and Beijing, which considers Taiwan its territory, campaigns relentlessly to isolate the island globally. It cut off relations with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s government shortly after she took office in 2016 and has been steadily ratcheting up both diplomatic and economic pressure.

Earlier this year, the West African nation of Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic broke ties with Taiwan and resumed or established diplomatic relations with China. Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu on Tuesday condemned what he called China’s campaign of luring away Taiwan’s allies with promises of vast financial aid and investment.

Taiwan is willing to consider cooperating with its allies in education, farming or even infrastructure initiatives, Wu said, but refuses to compete with China in buying diplomatic support. Wu said that El Salvador had repeatedly sought large amounts of funding from Taiwan for a port project that a Taiwanese team of engineers dispatched by the government thought wasn’t economically feasible.

“We think this is an inappropriate development plan that risks causing both countries to fall into great debt,” Wu said, noting that some developing countries were increasingly concerned about the risks of unsustainable debt linked to Chinese investments.

Wu said El Salvador’s ruling party was also expecting Taiwan to provide funds to help it win in elections, but Taiwan refused. “It is irresponsible to engage in financial aid diplomacy or compete with China in cash, or even in providing illegal political money,” Wu said. “My government is unwilling to and cannot do so.”

Some analysts say Chinese President Xi Jinping, one of the most powerful Chinese leaders in decades, seems determined to bring Taiwan under Beijing’s control during his time in office, which would place him in the history books alongside Mao Zedong.

The island’s 23 million residents are strongly in favor of maintaining their de facto independent status, but Xi has previously warned a Taiwanese envoy that the issue of unification cannot be put off indefinitely.

Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez Ceren said on national television that China and El Salvador would discuss ways to cooperate in trade, investment and infrastructure development. “It will give great benefits to the country and provide extraordinary opportunities on a personal level to each one of you,” he said.

The move comes just a day after China’s foreign ministry said it had complained to the U.S. over Taiwanese President Tsai’s visits this month to Los Angeles and Houston while in transit to diplomatic allies Paraguay and Belize.

The administration of President Donald Trump has been boosting relations with Taiwan amid a brewing trade war with Beijing. Tsai urged the island’s people to unite despite the pressure the government was facing diplomatically.

“Taiwan will not yield because of pressure,” Tsai said in a televised address. “We will be stronger and more united, and this will strengthen Taiwan’s determination to go out.”

Marcos Aleman in San Salvador, El Salvador, contributed to this report.

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Taiwan’s Tsai travels in face of China diplomatic onslaught

August 11, 2018

BEIJING (AP) — When Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen departs Sunday for Latin America, she’ll be traveling to a region she’s already visited three times in two years. She doesn’t have many other options.

As Tsai crosses the halfway mark of her first four-year term, an eight-day swing through Paraguay and Belize is a reflection of how Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation has worsened in the midst of a suffocating Chinese pressure campaign. Just 18 countries — mostly clustered in Latin America, the South Pacific and Caribbean — still maintain formal ties with the self-ruling island, down from 22 when Tsai entered office in 2016.

Along with luring away Taiwan’s allies, China, which considers the island its territory, has frozen contacts with Taipei and sought to constrict its contact with international organizations. It’s also bringing increasing economic pressure and most recently has browbeat international airlines and businesses into referring to Taiwan as part of China, a move condemned by Taipei and its ally, the United States.

Still, maintaining even a reduced pool of diplomatic allies is important to maintaining Taiwan’s image of itself as a sovereign democracy, and affords its leadership with the occasion to assert their presence abroad. Tsai will also be transiting in Los Angeles and Houston, providing opportunities to meet with overseas Taiwanese civic leaders and American officials.

Although Tsai leads Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party, which favors declaring formal independence from China, she has pursued a moderate China policy since taking office. But that hasn’t appeased Beijing, which has demanded that Tsai explicitly acknowledge an informal 1992 agreement that recognizes Taiwan as a part of China.

As a result, Beijing has “gradually rolled out punitive measures across the entire spectrum of activity and interactions,” said Jonathan Sullivan, director of China Programs at the University of Nottingham. “Going after allies is high profile and rich in symbolism.”

Faced with Beijing’s diplomatic onslaught, Tsai has prioritized cementing its ties with remaining allies and backers like the United States and Japan, with which it maintains close relations in the absence of formal diplomatic ties.

At the same time, she’s facing a dip in her domestic poll numbers, possibly, Sullivan said, due to a combination of Chinese pressure in the international arena and disappointment in her reform agenda at home.

On her trip this week, Tsai will attend the inauguration of Paraguayan President-elect Mario Abdo Benitez and address the National Assembly in Belize. China has traditionally moved carefully in Latin America, which it sees as falling under the U.S. sphere of influence, but has scored wins by flipping Panama and the Dominican Republic in the last 14 months at Taiwan’s expense, said Zhu Songling, a professor at the Institute of Taiwan Studies at Beijing Union University.

The Dominican Republic ditched Taiwan in May after it refused to match a multi-billion-dollar aid package offered by China. Flavio Dario Espinal, an adviser to the Dominican presidential office, told reporters in May that “socioeconomics reality now force us to change course” and embrace China, its $2 billion-a-year trading partner.

“The Chinese government has long respected the strategic thinking of the U.S. and we have shown restraint in the Americas,” Zhu said. “But these countries feel it’s in their national interest to flip to China, whose economic clout and attractiveness is on a whole different level compared to Taiwan’s.”

Tsai is increasingly coming under fire from her political base for her moderate approach to China, which has not ameliorated Chinese pressure. “Tsai has been criticized in Taiwan for being over-cautious,” Sullivan said. “It is a tricky line to steer, but it is becoming increasingly evident that Beijing has decided not to work with the DPP administration and is doing everything it can to undermine it in the short and longer term.”

Workers try to shore up tilted buildings after Taiwan quake

February 08, 2018

HUALIEN, Taiwan (AP) — Workers placed steel beams to stabilize a dangerously tilted building while rescuers on the other side try to pull survivors from their residences Thursday morning, more than a day after a deadly quake shook Taiwan’s east coast.

The Yunmen Tsuiti building was one of several damaged by late Tuesday’s magnitude-6.4 quake. At least four midsized buildings in worst-hit Hualien county leaned at sharp angles, their lowest floors crushed into mangled heaps of concrete, glass, iron and other debris. Firefighters climbed ladders hoisted against windows to reach residents inside apartments.

The National Fire Agency reported Thursday that death toll had risen to 10 people. More than 260 people were injured and 58 were unaccounted for. At least three of the dead were tourists from the mainland, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Japan’s Foreign Ministry said nine Japanese were among the injured. Six mainland Chinese were also injured, the Chinese Communist Party-run People’s Daily reported. President Tsai Ing-wen reassured the public every effort would be made to rescue survivors. On her Facebook page, Tsai said she “ordered search and rescue workers not to give up on any opportunity to save people, while keeping their own safety in mind.”

At the Yunmen Tsuiti building, clothes and other personal items were visible on the balconies as the rescue work continued. The shifting of the buildings was likely caused by soil liquefaction, when the ground loses its solidity under stress such as the shaking of an earthquake.

The quake also buckled roads and disrupted electricity and water supplies to thousands of households. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said his country was dispatching a rescue team to help in the search effort.

Taiwan has frequent earthquakes due to its position along the “Ring of Fire,” the seismic faults encircling the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes occur. A quake two years ago collapsed an apartment complex in southern Taiwan, killing 115 people. Five people involved in the construction of the complex were found guilty of negligence and given prison sentences.

A magnitude-7.6 quake in central Taiwan killed more than 2,300 people in 1999.

Panama switches diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China

June 13, 2017

BEIJING (AP) — Panama switched diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China on Tuesday, dealing a major success to Beijing in its drive to isolate the self-governing island it claims as its own territory.

Taiwan warned that the move would further alienate the island of 23 million from the 1.37 billion Chinese living across the Taiwan Strait. In Panama, President Juan Carlos Varela announced the change, which entails breaking off formal relations with Taiwan, saying in a televised address that it represents the “correct path for our country.”

A joint statement released on Monday evening in Panama said Panama and China were recognizing each other and establishing ambassadorial-level relations the same day. “The Government of the Republic of Panama recognizes that there is but one China in the world, that the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory,” the statement read.

In Taiwan, officials including President Tsai Ing-wen denounced the move as a betrayal and vowed to maintain the island’s sovereignty and international presence. “Oppression and threats are not going to help in cross-strait relations. It will on the contrary increase the discrepancy between the people” of Taiwan and China, Tsai said at a news conference.

“We will not compromise and yield under threat,” the president said. Panama had been among the largest economies to have maintained diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The island now has just 20 formal diplomatic partners, 11 of which are in Latin America and the Caribbean. The island is also excluded from the United Nations and many other multinational bodies at China’s insistence.

At the Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Panamanian Vice President and Foreign Minister Isabel de Saint Malo signed a joint communique establishing diplomatic relations, followed by a champagne toast.

Wang said he was sure relations between the two countries would have a “bright future.” Saint Malo said she hoped the new relationship would lead to trade, investment and tourism opportunities, in particular “exporting more goods from Panama to China.”

China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949 and Beijing has vowed to take control of the island by force if necessary. While the sides had maintained an undeclared diplomatic truce for much of the past decade, relations have deteriorated under Tsai, who took over Taiwan’s presidency more than a year ago but has declined to endorse China’s view that Taiwan and the mainland are part of a single Chinese nation.

The past year has seen China ratcheting up the diplomatic pressure on Taiwan, barring its representatives from attending the World Health Organization’s annual conference and other international gatherings.

Beijing cut off contacts with Taiwanese government bodies a year ago, and in recent months has also sailed an aircraft carrier strike force aground the island in a display of its growing military power.

Panama may be the first of several Taiwanese diplomatic allies to switch to China as Beijing steps up pressure on Tsai to recognize its “one China” principle, said Tang Yonghong, director of the Taiwan Economic Research Center at Xiamen University in southeastern China.

“Many Latin American countries want to have stronger ties with China for their national interests,” Tang said. Although China refused to form such ties during the previous administration of China-friendly Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, it no longer has any such qualms, Tang said.

“Now this trend could continue for a while,” Tang said. Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that in breaking ties, President Varela had ignored the friendship between their countries and the efforts that Taiwan had made to help Panama’s overall development. Panama had “submitted to the Beijing authorities for economic benefits” and “lied” to the government of Taiwan, the statement said.

Taiwan will immediately cut ties, cease all bilateral cooperation projects and pull its diplomatic staff and technical advisers out of the country, the ministry said, adding that it will not “engage in competition for money diplomacy with the Beijing authorities.”

“We express our strong protest and condemnation over the Beijing authorities luring Panama into breaking ties with us, oppressing our diplomatic space to maneuver and harming the feelings of the Taiwanese people,” the statement said.

Beijing and Taipei have long competed with each other to win diplomatic recognition, at times enticing small or poor countries to switch with the promise of millions of dollars for public works projects.

Varela had suggested the possibility of switching diplomatic recognition during his presidential campaign in 2014, for historic, economic and strategic reasons. “Both nations are betting on a more interconnected world,” Varela said in a possible allusion to Chinese economic involvement in the Panama Canal. He mentioned that it was a massive Chinese vessel that was the first to pass through the canal’s expanded locks when they opened in June 2016.

China is the second-biggest client of the Panama Canal and the leading provider of merchandise to a free-commerce zone in the Panamanian city of Colon, on the country’s Caribbean coast. The loss of Panama is intended to show Tsai that continued defiance of Beijing will harm Taiwan’s overall interests, said Zhang Baohui, director of Center for Asian Pacific Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

“Panama was one of the more significant countries that still maintained diplomatic relations with Taiwan,” Zhang said. “By taking away Panama, it once again teaches Tsai’s government the lesson that if she doesn’t accept the ‘one China’ principle … there will be consequences.

Zamorano reported from Panama City. Associated Press journalists Johnson Lai in Taipei, Taiwan, and Gerry Shih in Beijing contributed to this report.

China resumes ties with Sao Tome in triumph over Taiwan

December 26, 2016

BEIJING (AP) — China and Sao Tome and Principe officially resumed diplomatic relations Monday in a triumph for Beijing over rival Taiwan after the African island nation abruptly broke away from the self-ruled island last week.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his counterpart from Sao Tome, Urbino Botelho, signed books at a ceremony in front of their flags at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing. Wang said the re-establishment of relations would bring benefits to both countries and they would hold exchanges in tourism, the media and other areas.

The move is a victory for Beijing, which considers the self-governing island of Taiwan a part of China’s territory and has been outraged by suggestions by President-elect Donald Trump that he could rethink U.S. policy that acknowledges this. Beijing and Taipei have competed for allies for much of the nearly seven decades since the end of China’s civil war in 1949, when the defeated Nationalist government fled across the Taiwan Strait.

Most of the world does not formally recognize Taiwan as a condition of maintaining relations with China. Sao Tome and Taiwan broke ties last week, leaving 21 countries and governments, mostly in Latin America and the Caribbean, that have official ties with Taiwan. Taiwanese Foreign Minister David Lee last week accused Sao Tome of demanding “an astronomical amount of financial help,” though he did not say how much.

Sao Tome and Principe is an island nation off the coast of west-central Africa with a population of almost 200,000. The impoverished former Portuguese colony relies heavily on foreign aid. Beijing suspended its relationship with Sao Tome in 1997 after the island nation established diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

In re-establishing relations with Beijing, Botelho said Monday, “We want to redeem our mistakes in the past.” He said he hoped that more Chinese businesses would invest in his country and more Chinese tourists would visit.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry in a statement expressed its “strong disappointment and regret that Sao Tome has been confused by the diplomatic money campaign of mainland China and ignored the years of our great contributions to the health and wellbeing of the people of Sao Tome.”

As its economic, military and political clout has grown, China has become more successful in pulling away governments in a bid to diplomatically isolate Taiwan, though some countries, including the United States, maintain strong unofficial ties with Taipei.

Relations have worsened between Beijing and Taipei since independence-leaning Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was elected in January. In March, China established formal diplomatic ties with the small African nation of Gambia, which had severed relations with Taiwan in 2013. That was seen as a move toward abandoning the unspoken diplomatic truce between the sides that lasted eight years under Tsai’s China-friendly predecessor.

Beijing suspended contact with the main Taiwan liaison body in June, blaming Tsai’s refusal to endorse the concept of a single Chinese nation. While just a few countries and governments still have official ties with Taiwan, Beijing is eager to play up its latest addition after Trump suggested he might not adhere to the policy that recognizes only one China unless the U.S. gains trade or other benefits, analysts say.

Wang Dong, a professor of international relations at Peking University, said Monday’s re-establishment of diplomatic ties was a warning to Taiwan that Beijing has “a lot of counter-measures” up its sleeve should they pursue independence, as well as a warning to the United States.

“The U.S. won’t gain anything if they play with the one-China policy,” he said. “It is also a warning to those in the U.S. who tolerate and support the Taiwanese independence forces.”

Associated Press researcher Yu Bing contributed to this report.

Taiwan tells Beijing to grow up over Trump ceremony row

Taipei (AFP)

Jan 19, 2017

China should not be so “narrow-minded”, Taiwan said Thursday, after Beijing pressed Washington to block the island from attending Donald Trump’s inauguration.

A former premier will lead Taipei’s delegation as foreign dignitaries from around the world descend on the US capital for the president-elect’s swearing in.

But Beijing has asked the US to bar the self-ruling island it sees as a renegade province and part of “one China” to be reunified.

“We urge again the American side not to allow any Taiwanese official delegation to attend the US presidential inauguration ceremony and to have any kind of official contact with Taiwan,” said Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s ministry of foreign affairs, at a regular press briefing Thursday.

Former premier Yu Shyi-kun, who is leading Taiwan’s delegation hit back.

“Don’t be so small,” Yu, who belongs to the ruling Beijing-skeptic Democratic Progressive Party, was quoted as saying by Taiwan’s state Central News Agency.

“There hasn’t been any leader with such a narrow mind in all Chinese dynasties,” added Yu, referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Since Trump was elected in November, there have been a series of diplomatic upsets, with China incensed by a protocol-smashing phone call between the billionaire and Taiwan’s leader Tsai Ing-wen.

It was further angered by Trump’s suggestion that the “one China” policy could be negotiable and demanded Washington ban Taipei from the inauguration.

A Taiwanese delegation has attended in previous years, despite the lack of formal diplomatic ties, but never includes the island’s president.

Washington remains Taiwan’s most powerful ally and arms supplier even though it switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.

Chiu Chui-cheng, spokesman of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council which handles China affairs, called Beijing’s rhetoric “unhelpful for the normal development” of relations.

“There is no need for China to restrict or suppress Taiwan’s regular interactions and exchanges with the US”, he said.

Taiwan’s delegation also includes some legislators including pro-independence rocker-turned-politician Freddy Lim of the New Power Party, which is calling for Taiwan to be recognized internationally as a country.

Ties with China have turned increasingly frosty since Tsai took office last year, with Beijing cutting off official communication with her government.

Beijing has recently stepped up military drills — its only aircraft carrier sailed through the Taiwan Strait last week, and military aircraft passed near Taiwan twice late last year in what was seen as a show of strength.

Source: Sino Daily.

Link: http://www.sinodaily.com/reports/Taiwan_tells_Beijing_to_grow_up_over_Trump_ceremony_row_999.html.

Taiwan begins F-16 upgrade program

Taipei, Taiwan (UPI)

Jan 17, 2017

A $3.4 billion Taiwanese program to upgrade its F-16A/B Fighting Falcons got underway this week with the first four aircraft flown to a plant in Taichung.

The retrofitting of the aircraft to a “V” configuration is being performed by Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. in Taichung with Lockheed Martin, manufacturer of the aircraft.

According to the Taipei Times, the four aircraft will complete the upgrade process by the end of this year. About 25 to 28 planes of the air force’s F-16A/B fleet will undergo modernization each year until 2023.

Taiwan has a total of 144 Fighting Falcons.

Upgrades under Taiwan’s Phoenix Rising Project includes fitting of the aircraft with active electronically scanned array fire-control radar, which enables F-16Vs to detect stealth aircraft.

The Taiwanese fighters are also to be equipped with advanced avionics, including a new flight management system and a helmet-mounted display system.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Taiwan_begins_F-16_upgrade_program_999.html.

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