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St. Lucia to recognize Taiwan, but keeping China ties

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27.APR.07

Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang announced Wednesday night at a political rally in Taoyuan, Taiwan that his country had gained a new friend in St. Lucia.

Su may have jumped the gun, however, because the St. Lucia Minister of External Affairs’ statement in parliament did not confirm that his government had recognized Taiwan.{{more}}

According to a BCC Caribbean report, St. Lucia Minister of External Affairs Rufus Bousquet said in Parliament on Tuesday that “the overwhelming consensus within Cabinet is for the renewal of full diplomatic relations with Taiwan and at the earliest possible opportunity.”

At press time the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had also not confirmed the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, and the St. Lucia Ministry of External Affairs could not be reached for comment.

If confirmed, the new alliance will boost Taiwan’s pool of allies from 24 to 25.

According to a BBC Caribbean report, Bousquet intimated that the move to re-establish ties with Taiwan should not be construed as severance of the relationship with the People’s Republic of China.

“We consider the peoples of both Chinese entities to be friends of the people of our nation and therefore extend the hand of friendship to both,” Bousquet was quoted as saying.

Bousquet said that St. Lucia Prime Minister Sir John Compton and his United Workers Party also considered both Taiwan and China to be friends of the St. Lucian people.

The report stated that it was under a previous United Workers Party government led by Compton that St. Lucia first forged ties with Taiwan in 1984. The ties were later broken off in 1997 when country switched recognition to China.

However, the new alliance was not welcomed in all quarters in St. Lucia, as former attorney general Phillip La Corbinere who heads the opposition Labour Party, told BCC Caribbean that Taiwan’s contribution to St. Lucia during an earlier stint of relations had not been that significant.

“When the Taiwanese were here before, their main thrust was in the agriculture sector,” La Corbinere said. “They were doing a lot of research, for example, the questions that I have asked and put on the table is, to what extent did we see a transfer, a real transfer of technology of research to St. Lucia. My information is that we did not.”

He suggested that St. Lucia was bucking the international trend by throwing in its lot with Taiwan which has only about two dozen allies worldwide, including four in Caribbean.

The island country has been the centre of a political tug-of-war between China and Taiwan for many years as both sides tried to woo the nation of 170,000 people to maintain and re-establish relations with them.

In March, Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang led a delegation of Taiwanese officials to discuss with St. Lucia’s authorities the possibility of furthering the links between the two countries.

The announcement of new ties will most likely spur a protest from Beijing which has been lobbying hard to keep its official ties with St. Lucia. (Taiwan News)

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