Taiwan’s effort to raise its international profile with the support of the United States has been seriously disrupted with Guyana abruptly calling off a plan for the island to open a diplomatic office, less than a day after Taipei said it had signed an agreement with the South American country.
In what was at first perceived as a win for Taiwan in its diplomatic tussle with Beijing, the island’s foreign ministry announced on Thursday it had signed an agreement with Guyana to open a Taiwan office which would serve as a de facto embassy.
But hours later, Guyana’s foreign ministry said it was terminating the agreement following a warning from Beijing, which regards Taiwan as part of its territory and has not ruled out the use of force to reunify it.
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“The government has not established any diplomatic ties or relations with Taiwan and, as a result of the miscommunication of the agreement signed, this agreement has since been terminated,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The government of Guyana wishes to clarify that it continues to adhere to the one-China policy and its diplomatic relations remain intact with the People’s Republic of China,” it said.
The statement came after Beijing, which has close ties with Guyana, opposed the opening of the diplomatic office and warned Georgetown against engaging in official ties with Taipei.
The retraction of the agreement has seriously embarrassed the island’s government.
“Based on the approval of the two sides, the foreign ministry announced the bilateral agreement to set up the office, but Guyana unilaterally terminated the agreement … less than 24 hours after our announcement because of the pressure of the Chinese government,” Taiwan’s foreign ministry said on Friday.
It also hit out at Beijing for bullying Taiwan and squeezing its international space.
“The Republic of China [Taiwan’s official title] is a sovereignty independent country and … has the rights to deepen exchanges with various countries in the world, build relations and attend international events,” the ministry said, adding that Beijing’s actions would build resentment among Taiwanese people.
Taiwan’s Presidential Office also condemned the mainland, saying that despite Beijing’s suppression, the island would continue to seek to raise its international profile.
Taiwan has just 15 allies following Beijing’s repeated efforts to woo Taipei’s potential diplomatic partners away.
In what is seen as the US strategy of rallying Taipei to counter Beijing, the opening of the Taiwan office in Guyana had the backing of the US, which has in the past few years strongly supported the island’s efforts to increase its international visibility and reprimanded countries that cut off official ties with Taiwan.
Soon after Taiwan announced it had signed an agreement with Guyana in January for the opening of the office, the US applauded the move.
Its embassy in Guyana said the office would advance the shared goals of prosperity and security between Taiwan and the South American country.
Taiwan’s main opposition party, Kuomintang, said the ruling Democratic Progressive Party was to blame for Guyana’s termination of the agreement.
“The DPP government attempted to play up the office as one that carries official representative function and saw it as a diplomatic win, but Guyana’s foreign ministry only identified it as merely a private organisation,” it said.
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