Government says it’s not fair to accuse it of checkbook diplomacy

The China Post

It’s not fair to say that Taiwan engaging in checkbook diplomacy to keep its official allies, the Presidential Office said Monday in a protest against local media reports.

It is a common and long-standing practice in the international community to provide aid to foreign countries — calling this practice “checkbook diplomacy” is neither correct nor fair to those on the front line of diplomacy, Presidential Office spokesman Sidney Lin (林鶴明) said.

Lin’s comment came after local media reported that Foreign Minister David Lee (李大維) signed off on a financial aid package to Belize during his visit on July 27.

Lee had reportedly approved a US$60 million aid package, of which NT$20 million was classified as “donations” that require no repayment.

Local media described the move as “upping the ante” after Taiwan lost allies including Panama in the reignited tug-of-war for allies with Beijing.

While the Presidential Office denies that it’s returning to checkbook diplomacy, a source within the administration was quoted by the Central News Agency as saying that “everyone understand the pressure Taiwan is facing from China” on the diplomatic front.

Under such circumstances, “both ruling and opposition parties should unite and support our diplomats,” the official was quoted as saying.

The Foreign Ministry refuted local media reports that three Taiwan allies — Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Saint Kitts and Nevis — had refused to receive Lee during his Central American tour.

The ministry stressed that Lee only planned to visit Dominican Republic and Belize during the trip.