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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
04TAIPEI3522
2004-11-08 22:20:00
CONFIDENTIAL
American Institute Taiwan, Taipei
Cable title:  

TAIWAN CONFIDENT OVER VANUATU SWITCH

Tags:   PREL  EAID  TW  CH  NH 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TAIPEI 003522 

SIPDIS

CONFIDENTIAL

SIPDIS

STATE PASS TO AIT/W

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/07/2014
TAGS: PREL EAID TW CH NH
SUBJECT: TAIWAN CONFIDENT OVER VANUATU SWITCH


Classified By: AIT Acting Director David Keegan; Reasons: 1.5 (B/D)

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TAIPEI 003522

SIPDIS

CONFIDENTIAL

SIPDIS

STATE PASS TO AIT/W

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/07/2014
TAGS: PREL EAID TW CH NH
SUBJECT: TAIWAN CONFIDENT OVER VANUATU SWITCH


Classified By: AIT Acting Director David Keegan; Reasons: 1.5 (B/D)


1. (C) Summary. MOFA officials say they are certain that
the Vanuatu government will formalize the switch in
recognition from Beijing to Taipei announced by Prime
Minister Serge Vohor and Foreign Minister Mark Chen on
November 3 in Taipei. Taiwan officials acknowledge that
Vohor's decision does not yet have the formal blessing of his
cabinet, but say that Vohor assured Taiwan that he will bring
his cabinet in line after his return home. MOFA officials
said that they expect Beijing to try to convince Vanuatu
cabinet members to reject the change in diplomatic ties, but
officials expressed confidence that Vohor's decision would
stand. MOFA has declined to specify the amount of aid that
was promised to Vanuatu in exchange for recognition, but
Vohor's spokesman claimed that Taipei offered $28 million
with no strings attached. End summary.

Surprise Announcement in Taipei
--------------


2. (C) Taiwan Foreign Minister Mark Chen and Vanuatu Prime
Minister Serge Vohor announced on November 3 the
establishment of diplomatic relations between the "Republic
of China" and Vanuatu. MOFA officials told AIT that Vohor
secretly arrived in Taipei on November 2 to finalize the

SIPDIS
deal. During a meeting with Vohor, President Chen Shui-bian
hailed the opening of relations between the "Republic of
China" and Vanuatu after 20 years of hard work. He said the
"ROC" and Vanuatu are both "oceanic nations" and will work to
expand cooperation in the fisheries sector. Vohor said that
Vanuatu will use its voice in various international
organizations "to help Taiwan gain recognition as a sovereign
country."

Confusion Reigns After Announcement
--------------


3. (C) The surprise announcement in Taipei sparked
controversy over Vohor's authority to determine Vanuatu's
diplomatic relationships. Vanuatu's acting Prime Minister
Ham Lini told reporters in Port Vila that Vanuatu "supports

the one-China policy," and only recognizes the PRC. He
characterized reports that Vohor signed a diplomatic accord
in Taiwan as a mistake because Vanuatu had already signed a
recognition agreement with Beijing. There were also wire
reports that the communiqu had not yet received the support
of Vohor's cabinet, which is required for the agreement to be
finalized. The PRC Foreign Ministry announced on November 4
that Beijing had received a guarantee from Lini that
Vanuatu-PRC diplomatic ties would continue.

Taiwan Confident of Switch
--------------


4. (C) Taiwan officials assert that Vohor's announcement was
final and that they fully expect his cabinet to support the
decision. MOFA Assistant Director General for East Asian and
Pacific Affairs Philip Lee told AIT that Vohor guaranteed
Taiwan that his cabinet would support the communiqu he
signed. Lee remarked that Vohor told his Taiwan counterparts
that he would "take care of" the cabinet after returning to
Vanuatu. According to Lee, Vohor shared his plan to
de-recognize Beijing with key members of his cabinet before
arriving in Taipei. Lee said that the reason for the
confusion after the announcement was that this agreement had
to be undertaken in secret to ensure Beijing did not
interfere. Lee noted that Taipei had been working since 1988
to convince Vanuatu to de-recognize Beijing and MOFA first
had discussions with Vohor in 1992 about establishing
official ties when he was Foreign Minister. Lee added that
Vohor had become a good friend of Taiwan and that this was
his decision.


5. (C) It is still unclear how much economic assistance
Vanuatu will receive in exchange for recognition. Vohor's
spokesman reported to the Vanuatu press over the weekend that
Taiwan had agreed to provide up to $28 million next year with
no strings attached. MOFA Vice Foreign Minister Michael Kau
publicly denied this and said that this was an "imaginary"
figure. Assistant Director General Lee refused to tell AIT
how much aid, and in what form, was promised to Vanuatu in
exchange for the diplomatic switch, asserting that details
would be worked out later. He did mention that Vohor had
been frustrated with Beijing's empty promises in providing
aid. Lee also remarked that Taiwan is more than happy to
assist Vanuatu economically. Lee lamented that given
Taiwan's diplomatic isolation, it must offer countries
economic expertise and experience in exchange for
recognition.

Beijing Surprised, Working to Counter Move
--------------

6. (C) MOFA officials noted that Beijing was caught off
guard by Vohor's announcement, but moved quickly to lobby
members of Vanuatu's cabinet to reject the move. During an
official visit to Beijing in September, Vohor reportedly
assured President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao that
Vanuatu would continue to recognize Beijing. Assistant
Director General Lee told AIT that they expect Beijing to try
to convince Vanuatu cabinet members not to support the switch
in diplomatic ties, but Lee and other Taiwan officials
claimed that they are not concerned that Vohor's decision
would be overturned.

Comment: The Usual Muddle
--------------


7. (C) Vanuatu marks another round in the ongoing
Beijing-Taipei diplomatic chess match. MOFA officials were
clearly ecstatic over the small win, which they see as a
pay-off for more than a decade of work cultivating Vohor.
However, the personalized nature of the deal raises questions
about whether the new Taiwan-Vanuatu relationship is
sustainable. Even if Vohor succeeds in bringing his cabinet
around, it is far from certain whether Vanuatu will switch
back to Beijing once more after he leaves the political
arena. Equally unclear is whether Taiwan's own legislature
will be willing to underwrite once again Taiwan's dollar
diplomacy, especially if it turns out that money is going
into Vohor's personal bank account rather than legitimate
development projects.


8. (C) However this latest episode in Taiwan's courtship of
available diplomatic relationships plays out, it begs the
larger question. How long can Taiwan persuade its 27 formal
diplomatic partners to resist the blandishments and
intimidation that Beijing can deploy? Does Taiwan have a
sustainable strategy to maintain its "international space" if
and when its formal diplomatic relations disappear one by
one? We will explore that question over the coming months.
PAAL