Taiwan Re-establishes Diplomatic Ties with Nauru

Agence France Presse, May 14, 2005

Taiwan has re-established diplomatic ties with the South Pacific island of Nauru in a move likely to irritate China. The two sides signed a communique to formally resume relations, Foreign Minister Chen Tan-sun told a press conference.

Nauru President Ludwig Scotty met with his Taiwan counterpart Chen Shui-bian after the signing.

Scotty's predecessor, Rene Harris, had switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

Taiwan cut its 17-year diplomatic ties with Nauru in July 2002 after failing to persuade the tiny Pacific Ocean state to reverse its recognition of China.

Before turning to Beijing, Nauru's government had asked Taipei to increase its aid but was turned down.

Taiwan had accused Beijing of luring bankrupt Nauru with a 60-million-dollar grant and guaranteeing to help it settle a loan worth 77 million dollars with General Electric in the United States.

Beijing and Taipei have long engaged in a diplomatic tug-of-war trying to lure allies away from each other with generous aid packages and assistance.

With Nauru resuming ties with Taiwan, 26 countries -- mostly developing nations in Latin America and Africa -- now recognize Taipei instead of Beijing.

President Chen praised Nauru for turning its back on China to re-establish diplomatic ties with Taipei and pledged to seek closer cooperation between the two.

"President Ludwig Scotty and Nauru's government chose Taiwan and gave up China. I believe this is a right decision... we will join hands to pursue the best welfare for people in the two countries," Chen said.

He also thanked Nauru for its promise to support Taipei's bid to join the World Health Organization at the upcoming World Health Assembly meetings in Geneva.

"President Scotty has been deeply regretful about the mistake made by former Nauru President Rene Harris to unilaterally sever the diplomatic ties with Taiwan in July 2002," said Foreign Minister Chen.

He said Taiwan would offer assistance to Nauru in education, agriculture, fishing, tourism and health care.

The diplomatic victory comes one week after President Chen returned from a trip to three South Pacific allies, during which he held private talks with Scotty in the Marshall Islands.

Chen also made a surprise stopover in Fiji, which recognizes China instead of Taiwan, in a move protested by Beijing.

China regards Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification despite their split in 1949 at the end of a civil war.

Nauru was once one of the world's richest nations on a per capita basis through its phosphate exports but in recent years the resource has run out and the country, through a succession of bad international investments, has edged toward bankruptcy.

Located just south of the equator, Nauru is home to 10,500 people living on a 21 square-kilometre (eight square-mile) island.