01/18/2008, 00.00
TAIWAN
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After Malawi's defection, Chen clings to the last allies he has left

The day after his party's electoral defeat, the Taiwanese president left the country for a diplomacy tour of Latin America, where he met with the leaders of the countries that are still faithful to Taiwan. The visit became necessary after the about-face of Malawi, which in recent days recognised "one China, headed by Beijing".

Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian has met in Latin American with the leaders of the countries there that still maintain diplomatic relations with Taipei. The presidential trip began the day after the blistering defeat suffered by the democratic party (headed by the president) in Taiwan's parliamentary elections, which gave more than 70% of the available seats to the Kuomintang nationalists.

Nonetheless, the decision to depart - interpreted as a signal of disinterest by some Taiwanese media sources - became necessary after Malawi broke off diplomatic relations with Taipei, to recognise "one China, headed by Beijing". Chen, in fact, knows that he must maintain close relationships with the last countries that provide international recognition for the island.

To strengthen relations with his allies, Chen has promised 40,000 dollars to rebuild a school and a hospital in Saint Lucia (a Caribbean nation with 170,000 inhabitants), which were damaged by a hurricane. In Guatemala, Chen met with five more leaders of "friendly" states, with which he concluded trade agreements.

Presidential spokesman David Lee says "All [the allies] said in meetings they would not change their positions and would continue to support Taiwan". But Lee did not want to comment on the allegation that Chen gave 6 million dollars to Panama for "reconstruction projects".

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Beijing trying to “buy” Malawi away from Taipei
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