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Taiwan exploits fishing rights: Caribbean politician

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent -- The two main political parties in St. Vincent have restated their commitment to maintaining diplomatic ties with Taiwan, following a suggestion by an opposition politician that the eastern Caribbean nation was giving Taipei “fishing rights” in return for a “wax apple.”

The statement was made by Ben Exeter, a candidate for the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), who recently returned to St. Vincent from Canada, where he had been living for some 40 years.

“As far as I am aware, Exeter is the first candidate of any major political party since we have established relations with Taiwan to have questioned to the point of opposing our relations with Taiwan, and he did so on an incorrect factual base,” Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said on Saturday.

“We have given Taiwan no fisheries rights to fish in our waters or in exclusive economic zone ... obviously this man is taking his leadership from the Green Party and not from his own party,” Gonsalves said.

Both the Gonsalves-led Unity Labour Party (ULP) and the NDP have repeatedly restated their commitment to maintaining diplomatic ties with Taiwan, which have remained unbroken since they were established in 1981.

The Green Party, which secured less than 1 percent of votes in the December 2010 general elections, has consistently opposed the relationship between Kingstown and Taipei.

Gonsalves said it is perfectly in order for somebody to advocate pursuing “some amended China policy” in light of the improved relationship between Beijing and Taipei.

“You don't in a crass way make the opposition to our relationship with Taiwan or argue for the diminution on the basis of something false,” Gonsalves, however, said.

He explained that some Taiwanese vessels are registered in St. Vincent and fly the Vincentian flag.

“But that registration does not give them the right to fish in our exclusive economic zone,” Gonsalves said.

Gonsalves further said he is “very pleased” with the relationship between Kingstown and Taipei.

“Our relations are excellent, as symbolized by the recent visit of President Ma to us and an invitation for me to go very shortly to see President Ma,” Gonsalves said.

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