No crisis in diplomatic relations with Paraguay: foreign minister

There is "no crisis" regarding Taiwan's diplomatic ties with Paraguay, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said Monday. (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) — There is “no crisis” regarding Taiwan’s diplomatic ties with Paraguay, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said Monday after a number of senators in Taiwan’s only diplomatic ally in South America recently voted in favor of changing diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

“Paraguay has long been a strong supporter of Taiwan, since both of our countries are democratic nations, so it is perfectly normal that there are different voices within the country (on whether to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan),” Wu told reporters on the sidelines of a legislative session.

Wu made the remarks when asked to comment on an April 17 vote by the Paraguayan Senate in a virtual session on whether to urge the country’s president to switch diplomatic recognition to China.

The 45-seat Paraguayan Senate voted against the proposal, 25-16, with four abstentions, according to a Taiwan foreign ministry statement, adding that the ministry is watching developments closely.

It said the vote was held after seven Paraguayan senators associated with the left-leaning party caucus “Frente Guazú” petitioned on March 30 to establish formal ties with Beijing in exchange for medical supplies from China amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and direct access to China’s market.

Speaking during a Legislative session Monday, Wu said the opposition party in Paraguay has always been “unfriendly” toward Taiwan but the government maintains cordial ties with the Paraguayan ruling administration and thus has confidence in bilateral ties.

The vote came not long after Taiwan’s former ambassador to the South American country, Diego Chou (周麟), recently concluded his tenure and returned to Taiwan.

Some had questioned the timing of Chou’s homecoming less than two years since assuming the position, when Taiwanese ambassadors usually serve at least three years in their posts, wondering if the decision hinted at a diplomatic rift between the two allies.

Asked to comment, Wu said that Chou was transferred home as part of a “regular” personnel reshuffle. He did not elaborate.

The Paraguayan government has already accepted Taiwan’s proposed candidate for Chou’s successor and that person will assume the post in a day or two, Wu added.

Paraguay has had diplomatic relations with Taiwan since 1957 and is its only ally in South America among its 15 worldwide.

Since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in May 2016, Taiwan has lost seven diplomatic allies, three of which are in the Central American and Caribbean region — Panama, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic.

During a visit to Taiwan in October 2018, Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez pledged that the friendship between his country and the Republic of China (Taiwan) will never change and that Paraguay will forever remain Taiwan’s loyal ally in South America.