São Tomé and Príncipe cuts ties with Taiwan amid China pressure

by admin December 22, 2016 at 8:40 pm

TAIPEI, Taiwan, Dec. 22 (UPI) — A small African island nation is cutting diplomatic ties with Taiwan as China ramps up pressure on Taipei in response to a phone call between President Tsai Ing-wen and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.

São Tomé and Príncipe, a cluster of islands on the west of Africa, announced the changes Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Trade between the two countries is negligible, estimated to be about $358,000 a year. São Tomé is also an economic aid recipient.

But the shift could have been made based on promises of more financial support from Beijing, Taiwanese newspaper China Times reported Thursday.

According to the Taiwanese press report, the African country had requested a large sum of financial assistance, or $210 million.

Taipei turned down the demands from the government that has been mired in a financial crisis since March.

São Tomé has been paying government employees in arrears and asked Taiwan to provide $70 million in grants and $140 million in loans to build airports and shipping docks, according to the report.

The Taiwanese government turned down the request, offering instead $2 million in financial support.

São Tomé rejected the offer and asked for $4 million, and also requested a new economic cooperation agreement.

Taiwan has previously pursued other channels of support, conferring a $25,000 scholarship to the son of São Tomé’s president, although the student received poor grades and recently dropped out of school, according to the China Times.

Tsai recently said, “Taiwan is facing a diplomatic challenge” although China’s foreign ministry has yet to confirm relations with São Tomé are being established.

A ministry spokeswoman did say that Beijing welcomes São Tomé’s announcement, calling it a “return to the right track of the ‘one-China principle’.”

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