The Gambia severs diplomatic ties with Taiwan

A senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official has announced that China was not involved in Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s decision to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan, according to the Central News Agency. On November 18, David Wang, director-general of the MOFA’s Department of West Asian and African Affairs, made the comment after local media reported on Jammeh’s November 15 Facebook posting declaring that the People’s Republic of China will be recognized diplomatically by The Gambia in the future.

According to Wang, the Facebook post was dated a day after Jammeh informed President Ma Ying-jeou in a personal letter of his decision to end diplomatic ties with Taiwan, effective immediately. “The post did not mean Jammeh would immediately establish diplomatic ties with Beijing,” he noted, adding that he believes the Facebook message was mainly aimed at justifying Jammeh’s choice to sever diplomatic ties with the Republic of China (Taiwan).

The MOFA said in a statement that the ROC Embassy in the West African state will be shut down, its technical mission will be withdrawn and all cooperative programs will be terminated.

Jammeh on November 15 unilaterally announced the decision to terminate the 18-year-long diplomatic relations between his country, officially known as the Republic of the Gambia, and Taiwan. Given that the West African nation did not have ties with the People’s Republic of China at the same time, reported the United Daily News, the decision may be based on Jammeh’s personal choice, who is known to be unpredictable. Last month, Jammeh withdrew his country from the British Commonwealth and three years ago, he unexpectedly severed relations with Iran.

Whatever the reason, The Gambia’s move has posed a huge challenge to the “diplomatic truce” or “flexible diplomacy” policy of President Ma. The policy is aimed at putting an end to the “checkbook diplomacy” competition between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Over the past five years, both sides have refrained from luring away each other’s diplomatic allies with monetary incentives, noted the United Daily News.

The Gambia was the first country to sever official relations with Taiwan since President Ma began implementing his diplomatic truce policy five years ago. Without The Gambia, Taiwan still maintains diplomatic relations with 22 countries.

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