Taiwan says it is bracing for 'dirty tricks' from the mainland to try to woo away the island's allies, possibly after tomorrow's legislative elections. Taiwanese Foreign Minister James Huang Chih-fang admitted yesterday that such a development was inevitable, but his ministry was ready to fight back and would take on whatever diplomatic challenge the mainland delivered. 'Various signs have indicated that China will use dirty tricks to hurt our morale right after, if not before, our elections,' said Mr Huang, who had just returned from an attempted mission to Malawi, which is reported to be considering a switch of recognition from Taipei to Beijing. Beijing has recently accused Taiwan of trying to change the cross-strait status quo by planning a referendum in March on joining the United Nations under the name of 'Taiwan' despite warnings from the United States and the mainland. Mr Huang said that according to his experience, the mainland would soon launch a fresh diplomatic offensive. The mainland had tried to militarily intimidate Taiwan in the 1990s, but the threats served only to anger Taiwanese people. Mr Huang said Beijing could try to deal a new diplomatic blow to Taiwan immediately after tomorrow's legislative elections or when Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian leaves for a visit to Guatemala on Sunday or when he attends the inauguration of Guatemalan president-elect Alvaro Colom on Tuesday. He was cautious in not identifying the ally which Beijing might lure away, but media in both Taiwan and Malawi have reported that the mainland has offered US$6 billion in aid to the African state in exchange for a switch of allegiance. The tricky development prompted Mr Huang to head to Malawi last week, only to be told while en route that the Malawian president was still on vacation and his foreign minister was out of town. Instead of sending a presidential envoy to Guatemala, Mr Huang said he had strongly recommended that Mr Chen personally head to Guatemala to cement ties despite concerns that Beijing might seize the opportunity to embarrass the president on his way to or while he was in Guatemala. Asked if Washington had agreed to give Mr Chen better treatment during his transit stay in the US en route to Guatemala, Mr Huang said his ministry did not have any 'impractical' expectations. The US has told Taiwan that Mr Chen can transit through Alaska, where he can stop for refuelling, an arrangement similar to his trip to Central America last year, during which he refused to leave his plane. Frustrated by Mr Chen's defiance of its warning over his plan to hold the UN membership referendum, Washington refused to allow Mr Chen to transit through the contiguous US. The US says the referendum is provocative, and serves only to escalate cross-strait tensions. In another trip to Latin American in 2006, Mr Chen simply skirted Alaska and flew halfway around the globe to his destination after being snubbed by the US over his decision to scrap a symbolic agency tasked with cross-strait unification. Meanwhile, Mr Huang said his ministry remained on high alert against possible diplomatic advances by Beijing in Panama in Latin American and the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, though relations with the two countries were so far safe. Despite reports of a possible defection by the Marshall Islands, newly elected President Litokwa Tomeing assured his Taiwanese counterpart on Wednesday there would be no change in relations.