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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Taiwan told to learn lessons from rift with Gambia

The report compiled by Control Yuan members Chao Ron-yaw and Hung Teh-shuan suggested that the Taiwanese foreign ministry “lacked alertness to detect signs before the African country announced its intention to sever ties with Taiwan”.

“For this the ministry should take partial blame for actions that ultimately led to the end of 18-year-long official diplomatic ties with The Gambia,” the report said.

Once dubbed the closest friend to the Republic of China, The Gambia’s President Jammeh who has visited Taiwan nine times, issued a statement on 15 November 2013 saying that his country was ending diplomatic relations with Taiwan, citing “national strategic interest” as the reason. 

“This decision has been taken in our strategic national interest. We are proud that we have been a very strong and reliable partner of the Republic of China for the past 18 years, the results of which are there for every Taiwanese to see,” the statement said. Despite the end of diplomatic ties with Taiwan, we will still remain friends with the people of Taiwan,” it noted.

According to the Taiwanese parliamentary report, “The Gambia’s abrupt announcement came out of nowhere”.

At an emergency press conference held in Taipei following The Gambia’s decision, Deputy Foreign Minister Simon Ko admitted that Taiwan was extremely shocked and regretful over the decision. Diplomatic relations between Taiwan and the African country have always remained strong and stable, Ko said, implying that the ministry had seen no signs beforehand that the ally would make such an announcement.

The news was so shocking that the ministry did not immediately accept the announcement or make clear whether Taiwan had officially cut off diplomatic relations with The Gambia. In a futile attempt to restore relations, the Taiwanese sent a delegation led by Richard Shih, a former ambassador to The Gambia and a long-time acquaintance of President Jammeh, to visit the country. 

But the delegation did not even meet with the Gambian leader and ultimately returned to Taipei before the ministry “accepted the ugly truth” and announced that ties were officially cut, three days after Jammeh’s unilateral decision.

The diplomatic incident dealt a serious blow to President Ma Ying-jeou’s “flexible diplomacy” policy that his administration adopted in May 2008. The Gambia was the first diplomatic ally to sever ties with Taiwan since Ma assumed office.

However, the Taiwanese ministry of Foreign Affairs has insisted that the incident has nothing to do with China or with its diplomatic approach, which has proven successful so far.

By Joseph Yeh, The China Post

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