TAIWAN SIGNS UP MARSHALL ISLANDS IN DIPLOMATIC

VICTORY OVER CHINA

By Hsin-hsin Yang

TAIPEI, Taiwan (November 20, 1998 - AFP)---Taiwan on Friday established full ties with the Marshall Islands, in a diplomatic victory over mainland China, which has tempted away four other allies from the nationalist government this year.

Taiwan's Foreign Minister Jason Hu and his counterpart from the Pacific state, Phillip Muller, said a communiqué was signed here, the foreign ministry said. The Marshalls also maintains diplomatic relations with Beijing.

"To strengthen friendship and cooperation between the two countries, the Republic of Marshall Islands and the Republic of China (Taiwan's official name) decide to establish diplomatic ties on November 20, 1998," the communiqué said.

"The two countries would promote exchanges and cooperation in agriculture, fishery, technology, tourism and investment for mutual benefits," it added.

There was no immediate reaction from China, which this year has persuaded South Africa, the Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau and Tonga to break relations with the nationalist island.

China, which split with Taiwan at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, when defeated nationalist forces fled to the island, takes strenuous steps to stop Taiwan getting international recognition.

China took over Taiwan's seat in the United Nations in 1971 and traditionally cuts official links with governments that recognize Taipei as the legal representative of all-China.

Muller said the Marshalls -- which has a population of some 60,000 -- would not take the initiative to sever ties with China since "we want to make friends with as many countries as possible."

The number of Taiwan's diplomatic allies now stands at 27 -- most of them are poor or tiny nations in Africa, the Pacific, the Caribbean and Central America.

"It is a happy day today because we finally decided that we should have diplomatic ties in order to promote relations between our two countries and benefit the two peoples," Hu told reporters.

Hu has warned that Beijing will never end its attempts to sabotage Taiwan's efforts on the international stage, despite seemingly eased cross-strait relations, following talks between the two sides in October.

After losing Tonga late last month, Taiwan's foreign ministry condemned China for adopting "two-faced tactics" in dealing with the island.

"The Chinese communist authorities have no goodwill or sincerity in improving relations with us," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Roy Wu said.

Taiwanese envoy Koo Chen-fu met China's President Jiang Zemin in Beijing in October for the highest-level meeting between the two rivals since 1949.

Observers said the trip paved way for a resumption of bilateral talks which Beijing suspended after Taiwan's President Lee Teng-hui visited the United States in mid-1995.

Koo tried in vain to persuade mainland leaders to give Taiwan greater freedom to seek a place in the international community. China's Vice Premier Qian Qichen hinted that Beijing would even step up moves to isolate Taiwan.

MARSHALL ISLANDS TIE-UP WITH TAIWAN A TEMPORARY SETBACK FOR CHINA

BEIJING, China (November 20, 1998 - AFP)---China will not cease its efforts to isolate Taiwan diplomatically despite a surprise coup the nationalist island has pulled off in opening ties with the Marshall Islands, a western diplomat here said Friday.

China's foreign ministry is yet to comment on the development.

"It's quite interesting that the Marshall Islands have switched at this point (when) the pattern is clearly in favor of the PRC (People's Republic of China, or mainland China)," the western diplomat said.

But he said the switch would not stop China from persisting in its efforts to coax and cajole Taiwan's remaining allies to break ties with Taiwan.

"They know it's a battle. They won't be satisfied until there is no country on the list," he said.

Taiwan's foreign ministry said Friday it had forged relations with the Pacific state of Marshall Islands in a political gain after losing four allies this year to China.

A communiqué was signed in Taipei by Foreign Ministers Jason Hu of Taiwan and Phillip Muller of the Marshalls, which currently maintains official ties with Beijing.

The Marshall Islands Embassy in Beijing and China's Foreign Ministry had no comment on the communiqué, but Taiwan was clearly delighted.

"This is a happy day today that we finally decided that we should have diplomatic ties in order to promote relations between our two countries and benefit the two peoples," Hu told reporters.

Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen told top Taiwan envoy Koo Chen-fu in a meeting here in October that Taiwan's increasing international isolation was "a trend that is still developing."

Koo had complained to Qian that China had "intentionally created a lot of obstacles to our relationship with the international community", a move which would create a lot of "negative feelings" among Taiwanese if continued.

There are more than 160 countries that recognize China while only about 25 remain Taiwan's allies.

Both sides have hit out at the other for using so-called "dollar-diplomacy" to win over allies.

It is not known how many resources China has set aside to squeeze Taiwan off the international stage but there are rumblings from the wealthier provinces that their tax dollar might be better spent on other ventures than to bring insignificant countries on the Chinese side.

China, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province, has sought to block Taiwan gaining allies on the diplomatic arena in a bid to force it to reunify with the mainland.

However, the move would put pressure on cross straits dialogue that China hoped would lead to a peaceful reunification of the rival sides, divided since the communists drove the nationalists out in a civil war in 1949, analysts said.

The diplomat said the switch which really broke the deadlock for China was South Africa earlier this year, following which no other countries had similar pull or credibility.

He said it still made sense to win over the small countries because they have equal votes in the United Nations and in terms of the respectability they can confer on Taiwan.

The Solomon Islands, a Taiwan ally, raises the issue year after year of whether the People's Republic of China is the sole legitimate government of China.

Michael J Field Agence France-Presse Auckland, New Zealand TEL: (64 21) 688-438 FAX: (64 21) 694-035 E-Mail: afp.nz@clear.net.nz WWW: http://www.afp.com/english/

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