Taiwan's new Somaliland ties anger Beijing, Mogadishu

Taiwanese Representative Lou Chen-hua (left) and Somaliland's Foreign Minister Yasin Hagi Mohamoud jointly open Taiwan's representative office in Hargeisa.
Taiwanese Representative Lou Chen-hua (left) and Somaliland's Foreign Minister Yasin Hagi Mohamoud jointly open Taiwan's representative office in Hargeisa.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING (AFP) - China and Somalia on Tuesday (Aug 18) hit out at Taiwan for opening a representative office in the breakaway state of Somaliland after the two sides, which lack international recognition, wove stronger ties.

Taiwan opened its office in the Somaliland capital Hargeisa on Monday, with the flags of both sides raised and their anthems played.

Beijing accused the authorities in Taiwan of separatism and acting with "desperation".

Somalia's foreign ministry condemned Taiwan's "reckless attempts to infringe on the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Somalia and violate its territorial integrity".

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.

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.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press briefing that Beijing "firmly opposes Taiwan and Somaliland setting up official organisations or conducting official relations with each other".

"There is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inseparable part of it," Zhao said.

Somaliland is in a somewhat similar position to Taiwan, having declared independence from Somalia in 1991 in a move that remains unrecognised by the international community.

While anarchic southern Somalia has been riven by years of fighting between multiple militia forces and Islamist violence, Somaliland has enjoyed relative peace.

The statement from the Somali foreign ministry urged Taiwan to "cease its misinformed ventures into any part" of its territory.