Taiwan vows retaliation after Nigeria shuts down trade office

Move is latest diplomatic snub amid mounting pressure on island’s allies

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 July, 2017, 8:30am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 July, 2017, 8:30am

Taiwan has taken another blow from the Chinese mainland, with the island’s trade office in Nigeria forced to shut down due to pressure from Beijing.

An angry Taiwan vowed to retaliate on Sunday by asking Nigeria’s trade office on the island to move out of the capital, Taipei.

“We will take a reciprocal measure by asking Nigeria to do the same after the completion of relocation of our office [in Lagos],” Taiwan’s foreign ministry said, adding that it had lodged a strong protest and expressed deep regret to the Nigerian government over the issue.

In January, Nigeria ordered that Taiwan move its trade office out of Abuja and open a smaller one with a skeleton staff in Lagos. The order came after a visit by top Beijing envoy Wang Yi, who asked that Nigeria abide by the one-China policy.

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On Friday, the African nation sent 25 armed police officers to shut down the trade office in Abuja in a bid to force it to relocate to Lagos.

Abuja has maintained diplomatic relations with Beijing, which considers Taiwan a breakaway province. In late March, Nigeria demanded the island’s representative leave the country, saying it could not guarantee his safety.

Taipei has tried in vain to persuade Abuja to retract its decision.

The forced relocation is part of Beijing’s efforts to suppress the island since its president, Tsai Ing-wen, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, took office last May.

Since December, in addition to dispatching warplanes and ships for exercises close to Taiwan to step up the military intimidation, Beijing has succeeded in making Sao Tome and Principe and Panama switch diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei. That left the island with just 20 allies.

Beijing’s allies that still have Taiwanese representative offices using the island’s official title – the Republic of China – have been told to demand that those offices change names or face being shut down. Nigeria, Ecuador, Dubai, Bahrain and Jordan were among the countries facing this pressure, according to Taiwan’s foreign ministry.

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Taipei’s office in Dubai was the first to drop the “Republic of China” title on June 14, followed by the one in Ecuador on Tuesday. Nigeria made a similar demand when it insisted that the Taiwanese office in Abuja be moved.

With the Tsai government refusing to embrace Beijing’s one-China policy, Taiwan is expected to face further blows.

“More bad news and pressure is expected, which serves only to worsen cross-strait relations,” said Alexander Huang, a professor of international relations and strategic studies at Tamkang University in Taiwan.

Beijing has suspended communication and exchanges with Taipei since June last year, insisting that the one-China principle is the only possible foundation for their resumption.