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'Paraguay' formula may not work any wonders

Foreign Minister Francisco Ou isn't quite sure whether President Mauricio Funes of El Salvador may switch diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

That's why he was equivocal when Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Tsai Huang-liang asked whether he would step down to take responsibility, if and when Funes does so.

All Ou said about how he would planned to maintain ties with San Salvador was that he would follow the “Paraguay” formula.

He didn't elaborate.

But his spokesman did for him. Henry Chen said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) would help Funes acquire a full understanding of cooperative projects between the two countries and “strengthen bilateral cooperation.”

By strengthening bilateral cooperation Chen means Taiwan would offer more “assistance” to El Salvador. Well, more aid was promised Paraguay and Asuncion didn't de-recognize Taipei.

Taiwan tooted it as a diplomatic success. President Ma Ying-jeou's “diplomatic truce” is in place, political pundits say.

One thing they forget is Chinese President Hu Jintao didn't want to embarrass Ma, who was just inaugurated. Ma certainly is a much more China-friendly president than Chen Shui-bian.

As a result, Hu didn't let China outbid Taiwan in assistance to Paraguay. He wanted a “honeymoon” with Ma, who had extended his friendship towards China.

The honeymoon may end anytime, however. Hu wants Ma to reconfirm the Kuomintang's fundamental policy of eventual unification with China. Ma has dithered on this. His China policy is “no unification, no independence (for Taiwan) and no war (across the Taiwan Strait.)”

Though both Hu and Ma have gone on the record to say that they would like to sign a “peace accord” as towards eventual unification, President Ma has taken no action on this whatsoever.

Hu is getting impatient. He may end the honeymoon and resort to one-upmanship in the Taipei-Beijing diplomatic game. If he raises the ante, San Salvador will be more than willing to cut off diplomatic ties with Taipei. In fact, Chen called for Beijing's “cooperation” in keeping diplomatic ties between Taipei and San Salvador. Taipei hopes Beijing won't cause one of its 23 diplomatic allies to defect.

“In an atmosphere created by the diplomatic truce,” Chen said, “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will actively develop economic and trade relations with countries with which we have no diplomatic relations.”

“The Ministry of Foreign Relations believes the other side of the Strait should also have this understanding,” Chen added.

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