Taiwan opens office in breakaway Somaliland

MOGADISHU • Taiwan has opened a representative office in the breakaway state of Somaliland, a sign of deepening ties between two sides that are denied widespread international recognition.

The flags of both sides were hoisted and officials sang their respective anthems during a ceremony on Monday at the office in the Somaliland capital Hargeisa.

"We are confident about the mutual beneficial and friendly ties with Somaliland," Taiwanese representative Lou Chen-hwa, who will head the office, said.

He added that the two sides planned to cooperate on everything from healthcare to agriculture and security.

The agreement to establish the new office was announced last month, and Somaliland is expected to open its office in Taipei soon.

Somaliland's Foreign Minister Yasin Haji Mohamoud told reporters on Monday that an ambassador was "already working" on setting it up.

Taiwan is officially recognised by only 15 countries - seven of its diplomatic allies switched to establish formal ties with China after President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in 2016.

Ms Tsai describes Taiwan as already independent, but China, which views Taiwan as its own territory, has vowed to seize it one day, by force if necessary, especially if the island formally declares independence.

Taiwan has for decades been engaged in a diplomatic tug of war with Beijing in which each side tries to woo the other's allies with financial and other incentives.

Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991 in a move that remains unrecognised by the international community.

Somaliland and Taiwan are in some ways "natural partners", especially as Beijing has been reluctant to engage with Somaliland because of its unrecognised status, said Mr Omar Mahmood, senior Somalia analyst for International Crisis Group.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2020, with the headline 'Taiwan opens office in breakaway Somaliland'. Subscribe