Taiwan to face China's diplomatic offensive head on: Foreign minister David Lee

Taiwan's Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee speaking inside the ministry's building in Taipei, on May 24, 2016.
Taiwan's Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee speaking inside the ministry's building in Taipei, on May 24, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

TAIPEI - Taiwan would face China's efforts to isolate the island "head on", Foreign Minister David Lee said, after Taiwan lost a second diplomatic ally to China in six months.

Panama became the second country to switch its recognition to Beijing since Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took office last year, following Sao Tome and Principe last December, reducing the number Taiwan's diplomatic allies to 20.

"With the other side of the Taiwan Strait clearly intending to take the offensive, we cannot but face it head on," Taiwan's Central News Agency cited Lee as telling reporters. But Lee did not elaborate.

He made the comment on Saturday (June 17) at Taoyuan International Airport, where he and other officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs greeted diplomats returning from Panama after the Central American country cut off official ties with Taiwan on June 13.

On Saturday, Panama's Vice-President and Foreign Minister Isabel Saint Malo signed a joint communique with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing on the establishment of formal ties between the two countries, the Central News Agency reported.

China considers Taiwan as part of its territory, to be reunited by force if necessary.

Besides wooing Taiwan's allies, China has also taken other measures aimed at isolating Taiwan.

Beijing obstructed Taiwan's bid to attend the annual World Healthy Assembly as an observer - which the latter had done between 2009 and 2016.

China has also pressured its allies, including Nigeria, to force Taiwan to move its representative offices from their capital cities or change the names of those missions.

Taiwan's foreign ministry had said Nigeria had 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.

Taiwan has no diplomatic ties with Nigeria, but has an office for handling business affairs in Abuja.

In countries with which Taiwan has no formal diplomatic relations, it often sets up trade and commerce offices, in capitals and major cities.

China had refrained from actively wooing away any of Taiwan's diplomatic partners during the eight-year tenure of Ms Tsai's predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou from China-friendly Kuomintang, who advocated increased ties with the Chinese mainland.