08/27/2007, 00.00
TAIWAN – NICARAGUA
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President Chen tours Latin America, ready to make a fresh bid for a UN seat

Taiwanese president travels from Honduras to Nicaragua. Officially the purpose is economic but many believe he is after a UN seat which Chen wants sponsored by his Latin American partners. The opposition in Taipei is however critical of his moves.

Managua (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Taiwanese president yesterday began his second state visit to Nicaragua in 2007 amid criticism. The trip is part of a broader Latin American tour which has already taken him to Honduras and which will continue in Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama and Belize. The goal ostensibly is to shore up Taiwan’s economic co-operation with Latin American nations, but some analysts see it as political in view of Taipei’s plan to renew its demand to have a seat in the United Nations.

Taiwan’s president, who belongs to the Democratic Progressive Party, was welcomed at the airport by his Nicaraguan counterpart, President Daniel Ortega. His three-day visit will be spent in meetings with business men and diplomats.

The Asian island nation broke away from mainland China in 1949 at the end of the civil war between Communists and Nationalists but is still considered a rebel province by the government in Beijing.

For many the real purpose of Chen’s visit is to gather support for a possible bid to regain a seat in the United Nations which Taipei lost in the 1970s to the advantage of Beijing following US opening to Mao’s People’s Republic.

At present, the Republic of China (Taiwan’s official name) is recognised by 23 countries as the legitimate government of China, mainland included. The Vatican is among them. But last June after more than half a century of diplomatic relations Costa Rica switched sides and withdrew its support for the ‘rebel’ province in favour of the mainland, posting its ambassador to Beijing instead of Taipei.

What is more, not everyone in Taiwan is happy with Mr Chen’s policy. An opposition lawmaker blasted Chen's financial largesse, referring to a US$ 6 million gift to the Ortega government as a token of Taiwan’s friendship and a pledge to build a hydro power plant at the cost of US$ 35 million. Mr Chen is also said to be thinking about funding an oil refinery project in Guatemala.

“Chen lavished money during his trip to Central America, but the measure is a failure,” Kuomintang legislator Justin Chou said. “This is just a waste of taxpayers' money.”

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