Taiwan says Paraguay ties remain secure
The Associated Press
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Taiwan's diplomatic ties with Paraguay will remain unchanged despite an assertion by the new Paraguayan president that he will no longer support the island's entry into the United Nations, a senior Taiwanese official said Tuesday.
The statement by Foreign Ministry spokesman Henry Chen comes amid concern that Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo will follow through on a campaign promise to drop recognition of Taiwan in favor of China, the island's long time rival.
In a Sunday television interview, Lugo said Paraguay would reverse its long-standing support for Taiwanese U.N. membership at the upcoming U.N. General Assembly session beginning Sept. 16.
"We will no longer vote (at the U.N.) for Taiwan," Lugo said.
Chen said he was not concerned.
"Lugo's statement will not affect bilateral ties as he has reassured our president that nothing will change," he said. "In the past, allies have given us different degrees of support on the U.N. issue, but that has not affected ties."
The issue of diplomatic relations between Asuncion and Taipei has achieved special significance because of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou's strong efforts to forge a diplomatic truce with Beijing, as part of a broader attempt to lower tensions across the 100-mile- (160-kilometer-) wide Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan and China have been engaged in a no-holds-barred competition to win diplomatic recognition around the world ever since the two sides split amid civil war in 1949.
Taiwan's diplomatic allies traditionally use the opening of the fall General Assembly session to press for the island's admission into the world body, from which it was expelled in 1971, when the China seat was transferred from Taipei to Beijing.
This year Taiwan has not expressed a formal desire for U.N. membership, but has said it wants to be included in U.N. bodies, like the World Health Organization.
Following Ma's inauguration in May, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Francisco Ou said Taiwan would resent any attempt by China to persuade Asuncion to switch relations from Taipei, because it would indicate the Chinese leadership was not willing to observe Ma's hoped-for diplomatic truce.
China is now recognized by more than 170 countries, while Taiwan has only 23 partners, mostly small and impoverished nations in Africa and the Pacific.
Ma's efforts to carve out an improved relationship with China follow eight years of tensions between the two sides. Former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian's policy of pushing for formal independence for the island of 23 million people infuriated Beijing, which insists Taiwan it is an integral part of its own territory.