Message-Id: <>
From: Rex Brown <>
Subject: Taiwan Stepping up Drive to Secure African Ties
Date: Sat, 7 Feb 1998 21:40:09 +0200

Taiwan Stepping up Drive to Secure African Ties

By Alice Hung, Reuters, 6 February 1998

TAIPEI, Feb 6 (Reuters)—Taiwan is stepping up efforts to secure ties with its handful of allies in Africa to counter rival China’s intensifying diplomatic squeeze, officials said on Friday.

Officials said Foreign Minister Jason Hu, who just returned from Swaziland and Malawi on Friday, would embark on another damage-control tour to six African nations from February 14.

The trip will be Hu’s third to the region since China lured away Taiwan’s biggest ally, South Africa.

Hu planned to visit Chad, Guinea Bissau, Gambia, Liberia, Sao Tome and Principe and Burkina Faso—all of which recognise Taiwan’s exiled Republic of China rather than the communist People’s Republic of China.

Hu planned to meet leaders in those countries and discuss issues of mutual concern, officials said. He was expected to return on February 23.

The visits aimed to pave the way for President Lee Teng-hui’s planned African tour, state media said.

Nine of Taiwan’s remaining 28 allies are in Africa and Hu has pledged to visit all of them in the first half of 1998.

Taiwan has struggled to maintain its foreign ties under a diplomatic embargo imposed by Beijing, which has regarded the island as a renegade province since a 1949 civil war split them. Beijing refuses ties with states that recognise Taiwan.

South Africa was not the only African ally to switch ties to Beijing. In January, the Central African Republic did so as well, reversing a switch to Taipei from Beijing seven years earlier.

Wealthy Taiwan has offered economic and other aid in its bid to keep its remaining allies, most of which are small, needy states in Africa, Latin America and the Pacific.

Taipei media have said the Central African Republic had tried to squeeze too much from Taiwan, demanding that it help with the country’s civil service payroll. Taiwan balked.

The switch prompted China-watchers to predict that other African states might soon follow.

Since then, neighbouring Malawi has given signals that it too plans to drop Taipei in favour of Beijing.

Malawian information minister Joe Mpasu made an exploratory visit to Beijing in January and was quoted by China’s official Xinhua news agency as saying Malawi was prepared to forge diplomatic ties with Beijing.

Following Hu’s recent visit to Blantyre, Taiwan said its ties with Malawi remained firm.

Guinea Bissau Prime Minister Carlos Correia was expected in Taipei on February 10 to discuss bilateral relations.

Seizing the opportunity of Asia’s currency turmoil, Taiwan has been striving to boost economic ties with hard-hit Southeast Asian neighbours—all of which recognise only Beijing.

Taiwan Vice-President Lien Chan visited Singapore for an unofficial New Year’s holiday weekend for what Asian media dubbed ``golf course diplomacy.

Premier Vincent Siew recently made two surprise visits to the Philippines and Indonesia, offering to explore ways to help Southeast Asian countries out of their financial mess.

Beijing expressed its displeasure in each instance, accusing Taiwan of exploiting the Asian financial crisis to further its political interests.