TAIPEI/HONG KONG (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Taiwan criticised on Thursday (Jan 12) as "unreasonable" a request by Nigeria to relocate Taiwan's representative office in the African country, and denounced China for going back to its "old track of pressure and intimidation".
Taiwan's foreign ministry said Nigeria has asked Taipei to move its office from the capital of Abuja to its former capital, Lagos. Nigerian officials and organisations are also banned from having official exchanges with Taiwan.
The move, which came after Nigerian officials met their Chinese counterparts including Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Abuja on Wednesday and pledged to stick to Beijing’s “one China”policy, is seen as a move by Beijing to further isolate Taiwan.
It coincides with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen's Central America visit, during which she transited in the United States, and comes less than one month after another West African country, Sao Tome and Principe, severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan and established formal ties with China.
Taiwan has no diplomatic ties with Nigeria, but has an office for handling business affairs in Abuja.
Ms Tsai's spokesman Alex Huang said on Thursday China's pressuring of Taiwan will only raise hackles and is not conducive to cross-Taiwan Strait relations, Central News Agency reported.
Mr Huang, who is accompanying Ms Tsai on her ongoing tour, is quoted as saying China's return to its "old track" of pressure or intimidation will only antagonise the Taiwanese people and will not be favourable to the normal development of cross-strait relations.
"The existence of the Republic of China is itself an indisputable fact. Applying pressure and intimidation will not change that fact," Mr Huang said.
Taiwan's foreign ministry earlier called on Nigeria to consider the issue as both sides have an understanding based on reciprocity, under which Nigeria runs a trade office in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei.
“The foreign ministry seriously objects and condemns the unreasonable actions by the Nigerian government,” the ministry said in a statement.
Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama had said at a joint news conference on Wednesday with Mr Wang, China's foreign minister, that Taiwan would stop "enjoying privileges" because it wasn't a country recognised under international law.
Self-ruled Taiwan, which is seen by China as a renegade province, has just 21 diplomatic partners.
In countries with which Taiwan has no formal diplomatic relations it often sets up trade and commerce offices, in capitals and major cities.
While economic ties between Taiwan and China, which sees the island as a breakaway province, have grown considerably in recent years, their relations have worsened since Ms Tsai, who heads a pro-independence party, was elected president of the island last year.
Beijing has been stepping up pressure on her to concede to its “one China” principle.
China has shown a willingness to use its growing economic and military might to put pressure on Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which swept the more Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) from power last year.
China had refrained from actively wooing away any of Taiwan's diplomatic partners during the eight-year tenure of Ms Tsai's predecessor, the KMT's Ma Ying-jeou, who advocated increased ties with the world's second-largest economy.