CHINA PROTESTS MARSHALL ISLANDS TIE-UP WITH TAIWAN

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BEIJING, China (November 20, 1998 -AFP)---China's foreign ministry Friday summoned the ambassador of the Marshall Islands to protest the tiny Pacific nation's establishment of diplomatic links with Taiwan.

"They summoned me to the foreign ministry yesterday and they called me on the phone again today," said Carl Heine. "They asked me to immediately convey to my government to correct the situation.

"It is an unfortunate thing. We have interest in establishing trade relations with Taiwan. It is strictly commercial, no politics," he said.

A foreign ministry spokesman told AFP (Agence France-Presse) that China "firmly denounces countries with which we have diplomatic ties to set up official relations with Taiwan.

"We all know there is only one China. The People's Republic of China (PRC) is the only legitimate government of China. Taiwan province is an inalienable part of Chinese territory," he said.

Taiwan's foreign ministry said Friday it had forged relations with the 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 set up diplomatic ties with China in 1990.

"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.

A western diplomat in Beijing said China will not cease its efforts to isolate Taiwan diplomatically despite the surprise coup the nationalist island pulled.

"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.

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.

Sources said Taiwan bought Marshalls' recognition with "hundreds of millions of dollars," a huge sum of money for a small country, in cash and investment pledges in the transportation sector.

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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