Taiwan: Vanuatu withdraws communique signed in Taiwan
In statement issued in Port Vila and confirmed by Beijing, the Vanuatuan government said it unanimously agreed to revoke the communique Prime Minister Serge Vohor inked with Taiwan's Foreign Minister Chen Tan-sun on November 3.
"It was a unanimous decision so it leaves the prime minister with two options, to agree or to sack us all," Foreign Affairs Minister Barak Sope said Thursday.
The about-turn was made Wednesday at a cabinet meeting in the tiny Pacific nation.
Top Vanuatuan leaders are now preparing a mission to Beijing this month "to restore confidence and ensure normalcy in political and economic relations", the statement said.
"The government of China appreciates this stance by Vanuatu that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China...," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said.
She said the change of heart "proves separatist activities of the Taiwan authorities are not popular and are going nowhere".
However Taiwan insisted diplomatic ties with Vanuatu remained in place despite the statement.
Independence-leaning Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian had trumpeted the switch of diplomatic recognition and his government had been putting together a financial aid package to its new ally.
"Vanuatu Prime Minister Vohor reiterated today the diplomatic ties remain effective although some of his cabinet members may have different opinions on this," Taiwan's foreign ministry spokesman Michel Lu told reporters.
Vohor himself said he remained committed to links with Taipei and was prepared to put his position on the line over the issue.
"The prime minister has reiterated that he would rather be in opposition than see politicians defend a One-China policy which has done very little to alleviate policy in the rural areas," his office said in a statement.
The Vanuatu government said that it had rejected a bid by a visiting Taiwanese official to set up a temporary diplomatic office in the country and had demanded the Taiwanese flag flying on the building be pulled down.
China's Zhang said Sino-Vanuatu diplomatic ties had existed for 22 years and Beijing looked forward to continued cooperation, hinting that, like Taiwan, it had its chequebook at the ready.
The two rivals have long engaged in a diplomatic tug-of-war trying to woo allies away from each other with generous financial aid packages and business incentives.
China views Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, after their split in 1949 at the end of a civil war.
Some Taiwan newspapers had said Vohor had not secured the advance approval of Vanuatu's cabinet before he travelled to Taiwan and made the announcement.
Vanuatu's foreign affairs department director-general George Manuri said he had not been informed of any such negotiations or even that Vohor was in Taipei and was "surprised and shocked".
However Taiwan's Lu said Vohor did not attend the cabinet meeting where the decision to withdraw the communique was made and suggested any decision made without Vohor's presence was illegal.
Only 26 countries, excluding Vanuatu, recognize Taipei as the legal government of all of China.