TAIPEI (Reuters) – Paraguayan President Mario Abdo on Saturday sought to calm jitters that an election in April could see his country ditch long-standing ties with Taiwan in favour of China, saying at the end of a Taipei trip that nobody would dare to end relations.
Paraguay is one of only 14 countries to have formal diplomatic relations with Chinese-claimed Taiwan, and Beijing has been stepping up efforts to get those remaining allies to abandon Taipei.
Paraguay would cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan and open relations with China if the opposition wins the election, its presidential candidate Efrain Alegre has said, hoping to boost economically important soy and beef exports.
Speaking to reporters in Taipei, Abdo said his country has only ever known ties with Taiwan, that Taiwan was not a major issue in the election and what is said on the campaign trail may not be representative of policies while in office.
“Nobody is going to dare to go ahead with a process of diplomatic rupture with the Republic of China, Taiwan,” he said, referring to Taiwan’s official name.
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“We are brotherly peoples, and we have a destiny together.”
Abdo is not standing again for the presidency. Santiago Pena, the ruling Colorado Party candidate, has said Paraguay’s relations with Taiwan would remain intact if he wins on April 30.
Paraguay’s Taiwan ties have been under pressure in recent years, especially from the country’s beef producers and farmers, who see the relationship as an obstacle to gaining access to China, the world’s largest market for their products.
China views Taiwan as one of its provinces, with no right to state-to-state ties, a position Taipei hotly disputes.
China’s targeting of Taiwan’s allies has taken on broader geopolitical significance amid U.S. concerns about Beijing expanding its influence in Latin America and the Caribbean where many of Taipei’s remaining friends are located.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>)
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