Guyana Reneges on Taiwan Office Plan

Guyana Reneges on Taiwan Office Plan
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What you need to know

Guyana terminated agreement with Taiwan to open representative office less than a day after Taiwan announced the plan.

Guyana today backtracked on its plan to open a Taiwan office less than a day after Taiwan announced sending diplomats to the South American country that has official ties with Beijing.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said Thursday it had reached an agreement early January with its Guyanese counterpart to open an office in Georgetown. The government had also sent the necessary personnel to Guyana to begin initial preparations.

However, later on the same day, Guyana’s foreign ministry canceled the agreement, saying that the country adheres to the one China policy and its diplomatic relations with Beijing remain intact.

In a statement, the ministry said, “The government has not established any diplomatic ties or relations with Taiwan and as a result of the miscommunication of the agreement signed, this agreement has since been terminated.”

Experts say the significance of the representative office in Guyana is that it would have been the second de facto embassy to carry Taiwan in its name. In many countries, Taiwan’s foreign mission is often called the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, reflecting the absence of formal diplomatic relations.

Last August, the first Taiwan office was opened in Somaliland. The self-declared country in Africa opened an office in Taiwan later in September, but the two sides have not established formal ties.

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Photo Credit: AP / TPG Images
In this image made from video, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Joanne Ou points at a map of Guyana at a weekly press conference, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, in Taipei, Taiwan.

In response to the abrupt change, the Taiwanese government said it regrets that the plan to open an office fell through because of China’s pressure on Guyana.

The foreign ministry reiterated that Beijing’s suppression demonstrates its “evil nature” and will only alienate the Taiwanese from China.

On Thursday, hours after Taiwan announced the plan to open the office, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin responded by urging Guyana to “earnestly take steps to correct their mistake.”

China is likely to have used Covid-19 vaccines as leverage to pressure Guyana to roll back the agreement. Guyanese foreign minister Hugh Todd announced Thursday that China has approved a donation of 20,000 doses to the country.

He praised China for making “significant contributions to Guyana's development since the establishment of diplomatic relations on June 27, 1972.”

The incident may be seen as a setback as Taiwan strives to expand its space in diplomacy, but Taiwan Warm Power, a Facebook fan page discussing Taiwanese politics, said it also reveals continuing U.S. support for Taiwan.

Taiwan and Guyana had signed the agreement to open the office during the Trump administration. The announcement, made after President Joe Biden took office, shows a continuity in U.S. policy on Taiwan with the previous administration, the fan page said.

Julie Chung, an acting assistant secretary for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, said, “The U.S. welcomes the establishment of a Taiwan office in Guyana, which will strengthen their growing relationship.”

The American Institute in Taiwan, the U.S. representative office, also applauded the agreement on Thursday, saying that “all countries should be free to pursue closer ties and greater cooperation with Taiwan, a leading democracy​, a major economy, and a force for good in the world.”

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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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