TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) rebutted yesterday Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Michael Somare’s statement that he never met with Taiwanese officials or intended to establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan, saying that the South Pacific country and Taiwan each have a “different understanding” of the events.
MOFA spokeswoman Phoebe Yeh, though appearing not totally surprised at Somare’s denial, said that “Papua New Guinea has a different understanding than Taiwan of the incident.”
“I do not understand why they made such remarks,” she said.
According to a statement by Somare, the relations between Taiwan and Papua New Guinea were limited to economic and trade exchanges, and he “never met with Taiwan’s diplomats on official diplomatic occasions.”
He added that he only bumped into James Huang, former Foreign Minister of Taiwan, last year in Singapore “by accident” but they never talked about forging diplomatic ties.
Yeh however stressed that the MOFA’s meetings with two senior Papua New Guinea government officials in 2006 and 2007 were aimed at discussing the establishment of diplomatic relations.
She added that Paul Tiensten, then foreign minister of Papua New Guinea, was not only given authority by Prime Minister Somare, but actually signed a communique on setting up diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
“Clearly, we have a different understanding than they do of the entire process” she said.
The diplomatic fraud scandal first came into light May 1 when it was reported in the media that the MOFA had been defrauded of US$30 million in foreign aid funds by two middlemen, Ching Chi Ju and Wu Shih tsai, who had been commissioned to broker a diplomatic deal with Papua New Guinea.
The political storm caused by the scandal has intensified as new rumors and accusations continue to surface. Huang, along with former Vice Premier Chiou I-jen and former Deputy Defense Minister Ko Cheng-heng, has been forced to step down over the diplomatic scandal. Papua New Guinea’s opposition is also calling for a full investigation into the incident.