President-elect says last South American holdout has no plan to recognise China
TAIPEI: Paraguay’s formal ties with Taiwan make “more sense” than recognising China, and will be a greater boost to development in the South American country, president-elect Santiago Pena said on Saturday.
Paraguay is the last remaining South American nation to recognise Taiwan over Beijing, which claims the island as its territory and has spent decades convincing Taipei’s allies to switch.
Pena, who won the election in May and will be inaugurated next month, has been in Taiwan since Tuesday. His schedule has been packed with meetings and stops, including at a bubble tea shop with President Tsai Ing-wen.
He has vowed to stay on Taiwan’s side during his five-year tenure, a point he reiterated during an interview with AFP and other media on Saturday.
“There are solid foundations and concrete facts that support why it makes more sense to have a relationship with Taiwan than with mainland China,” he said.
Despite formally recognising Taiwan, Pena said there are “no constraints” to trade with China, with which Paraguay has “a very broad relationship”. China is Paraguay’s top supplier of goods.
“But for a country like Paraguay — small and a very open economy — we need to diversify our markets,” he said.
“Reliance on a single market for some moments will be very good, but in other moments would be very, very bad.”
The former finance minister had vowed on the campaign trail to maintain formal ties with Taiwan.
His win in May soothed Taipei’s fear that Paraguay would ditch it in favour of Beijing.
Panama, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras have all switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in recent years.
“Our relationship with Taiwan is not an impediment to having trade relations with mainland China,” Pena said, adding that “the restriction is the one placed by the People’s Republic of China”.
“We have no constraints on doing trade with China, we would love to do more trade with” China, he said.
Beijing does not permit nations to also recognise Taipei, which only has formal ties with 13 countries.
China has ramped up diplomatic, military and economic pressure on Taiwan in recent years because Tsai does not accept that the island is a part of Chinese territory.
This week, China staged sea and air military exercises for two days around the island while Pena was visiting, according to Taiwan’s defence ministry.
Source: Bangkok Post