TAIPEI, Taiwan – The improved relations between China and Taiwan over the past four years is not expected to affect the diplomatic ties between Taiwan and St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), one Vincentians diplomat says.
Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves, permanent representative of SVG to the United Nations, said in an I-Witness News/iMaculate iMagez interview last week that his country, which has maintained ties with Taiwan since 1982, is not among those that have “engaged in a very mercenary game with Taiwan and mainland China, where they try to play one off the other”.
China considers Taiwan a renegade province to be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary. The two countries have engaged in a diplomatic war that saw each side trying to woo the other’s diplomatic allies.
Since President Ma Jing-jeou came to office in 2008, there have been improved Beijing-Taipei ties, including an unofficial diplomatic truce.
“St. Vincent and the Grenadines, since independence, had been an ally of Taiwan and we have not participated in those sorts of flirtations with mainland China,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves was part of a three-member delegation of ambassadors who last week discussed with Ma the implication of the improved Beijing-Taipei relations and the future of Taiwan’s relationship with its allies.
He said that SVG’s relationship with Taiwan “is built fairly solidly on principles and friendship”.
According to him, warming Beijing-Taipei ties might be damaging to those countries that have switched their diplomatic recognition between both capitals.
“… but, we have a very strong relationship and we consider ourselves allies. … This is a new paradigm and friends will become more or less important based on how they advocate for Taiwan in other fora,” Gonsalves said.
He noted that Ma’s government has abandoned its predecessor’s policy of annually calling for Taiwan membership in the U.N.
At the various U.N. bodies, Taiwan now wants to participate in discussions about a wide range of issues, including climate change, SARS, and H1N1.
“They want to have a stronger presence in the World Trade Organisation. They want to discuss civil aviation and the flights of their aircrafts,” Gonsalves said.
He said that Taiwan’s 23 diplomatic allies would have to advocate for and try to get the nation membership in these international bodies.
“So, we (Taiwan’s allies) are in many ways more valuable to Taiwan. … You are right, we can’t play one off the other, but St. Vincent and the Grenadines never did that. So that was never something that was in our bag of tricks. So I don’t think it will not affect our country as it may affect some other countries,” he said of the improved relationship between China and Taiwan.
And while Ma has not been raising the issue of Taiwan’s de jure independence, he still wants the nation to have “greater and even more meaningful participation in the international community,” Gonsalves said.
“And he has asked us, his allies, to help him, to be a voice for him and his country and to advise the Taiwanese…
“What he essentially outlined was that we are still valuable and he is going to be asking us to help him even more on a consistent basis. And, on the other side, we should not feel that we would be slighting him if we engage in business with China as long as we maintain our recognition with Taiwan,” Gonsalves said.