Destiny Unites Us, Paraguay Leader Says as Taiwan Ties Hang in Balance
TAIPEI (Reuters) – Paraguay and Taiwan are united by destiny, Paraguayan President Mario Abdo said on Thursday during a visit to the island ahead of an election in April that could see the Latin American country ditch Taipei for Beijing.
Paraguay is one of only 14 countries to have formal diplomatic relations with Chinese-claimed Taiwan, and Beijing has been stepping up efforts to get those remaining allies to abandon Taipei.
Paraguay would cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan and open relations with China if the opposition wins the election, its presidential candidate Efrain Alegre has said, hoping to boost economically important soy and beef exports.
Speaking at a welcome ceremony in Taipei attended by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, Abdo said the Taiwanese people deserve the highest admiration, respect, and affection from his country.
“Madam President, a saying you all know very well notes that destiny unites people far apart, and I believe this has been the case for our countries,” he added. “Nowadays our countries are much more than friends, they are partners and strategic allies, that share values and the same vision to create a peaceful, democratic, and sustainable world.”
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Abdo is not standing again for the presidency. Santiago Pena, the ruling Colorado Party candidate, has said Paraguay’s relations with Taiwan would remain intact if he wins on April 30.
Tsai, recalling her two trips to Paraguay as president, said the two sides continued to deepen their friendship.
“We look forward to taking this visit and exchange to continue to strengthen cooperation between the two countries,” she said.
Paraguay’s Taiwan ties have been under pressure in recent years, especially from the country’s beef producers and farmers, who see the relationship as an obstacle to gaining access to the world’s largest market for their products.
China views Taiwan as one of its provinces, with no right to state-to-state ties, a position Taipei hotly disputes.
China’s targeting of Taiwan’s allies has taken on broader geopolitical significance amid US concerns about Beijing expanding its influence in Latin America and the Caribbean where many of Taipei’s remaining friends are located.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Eduardo Baptista in Beijing. Editing by Gerry Doyle)
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