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Gambia breaks off diplomatic ties with Taiwan

Banjul, Gambia - Gambia said on Thursday it had broken off diplomatic relations with Taiwan after 18 years, citing the "national interest".

President Yahya Jammeh's announcement makes Gambia the first country to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan since President Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008 on a China-friendly platform.

"This decision has been taken in our strategic national interest," said a statement from Jammeh's office.

"Despite the end of diplomatic ties with Taiwan, we will still remain friends with the people of Taiwan."

Gambia was one of only a handful of African countries to retain ties with Taiwan at a time when China is pumping billions of dollars into the continent.

Simon Ko, Taiwan's vice foreign minister, told a news conference Taipei felt "shock and regret" at the move, which means it is now recognised by just 22 countries, mostly developing states.

Beijing has in recent years convinced several countries that had sided with Taiwan in 1949 to switch their support.

However, it was not immediately clear whether Gambia's move was linked to the development of relations with China, which has a growing influence in Africa.

Initially, a majority of African states recognised the Taipei government, which responded with investment.

But their number has steadily eroded. Gambia's decision means that Swaziland, Sao Tome and Principe and Burkina Faso are the only African countries that still have diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Taiwan has poured millions of dollars into the health, education, agriculture and infrastructure sectors of resource-poor Gambia, the smallest country on the African mainland.

It funded the $22 million (18 million euro) construction of a 42 kilometre (26 mile) road linking the western part of the country to the capital Banjul, and President Ma had visited Gambia in 2012.

In 2010 President Jammeh said Taiwan was "one of the best friends that the Gambia has ever had", pledging to "give them all the necessary support to make sure that they gain their rightful position in this world".

November 15, 2013    skier_rich@
This is not a loss for Taiwan. Recognition status was a relic from previous governments who viewed formal recognition as political currency. The fact is, major countries have had de-facto embassies for years in Taiwan (such as AIT) that perform normal consular services.

November 17, 2013    terplaw@
This is a massive failure and embarrassment for Taiwan. Taiwan has so few political allies in the world and now it's one less in the United Nations that can speak for her. Those who try to post propaganda about how this is not a loss for Taiwan are delusional or overly eager for Taiwan to be annexed by China. This is very, very bad for Taiwan's future and a disaster for Ma Yin Jeou's flexible diplomacy. China will continue to undermine Taiwan at every turn with little regard for any Taiwan's international space. The KMT is killing Taiwan.
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Taiwan's Vice Foreign Minister Simon Ko bows during a press conference in Taipei on Nov. 15.

(AFP)

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