China’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday welcomed the decision by the African island nation of Sao Tome and Principe to break ties with Taiwan.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying did not mention any potential links between the tiny nation and Beijing, but offered appreciation for Sao Tome and Principe’s “return to the right track.”
“China is ready to develop friendly and cooperative relations with all countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and the one-China principle,’’ she said.
According to Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sao Tome and Principe recently asked Taipei for up to $100 million to cover financial shortfalls. Taiwan turned down the request, the ministry said, leading to an ending of relations.
“It’s indeed a significant amount of financial assistance to a country with the population of 150,000,’’ Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee said.
Starting Wednesday, Taiwan will retreat from the West African country, withdrawing its embassy and technical personnel, Lee said.
When asked by reporters if Taiwan was concerned about a domino effect of countries severing their ties with Taiwan and instead adhering to China’s “One-China’’ policy, Lee said China is currently Taiwan’s largest trading partner and Taiwan is one of the largest investors in China.
The island nation has its own currency, passport and flag and is represented overseas by de facto embassies known as Taipei Economic and Cultural Offices.
The self-governing island has held democratic elections for decades and competes in international sporting competitions under the moniker Chinese Taipei.
Wednesday’s decision by Sao Tome and Principe left Taiwan with diplomatic ties to only 21 states, including the Vatican.
The number has been declining since 1979, when the U.S. established official diplomatic ties with the government in Beijing instead of Taipei.
In November 2013, another West African nation, Gambia, also removed itself from the list of countries that officially recognise Taiwan.