|China upset over Suriname delegation visit to Taiwan|
|Published on Monday, July 2, 2007|
By Ivan Cairo-reporting from Beijing
BEIJING, China: The Chinese government is angered over a visit by a Suriname delegation to Taiwan, officials in Paramaribo disclosed. On returning from Germany last week, Speaker of the House Paul Somohardjo revealed that Suriname’s ambassador to China, Isaak Soerokarso, was summoned by China’s deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, to express Beijing’s disappointment over the visit to Taiwan.
In an invited comment, this was confirmed by Suriname’s Foreign Minister Lygia Kraag-Keteldijk, adding that, in Paramaribo, China’s charge d’affaires met with Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary, Frederik Boekstaaf, to voice Beijing’s disappointment over the matter.
China is particularly upset because several members of parliament from the coalition are participating in the trip to Taiwan, while just recently Suriname’s vice-president Ram Sardjoe paid a successful official visit to Beijing.
Taiwan sparked a bitter controversy recently by putting forward an informal offer to Suriname for multi-million dollar development assistance in return for diplomatic recognition by the Suriname government. That offer, however, was rejected by the Venetiaan administration, citing Suriname’s commitment to adhere to Beijing’s One-China policy.
Speaking to the media, House Speaker Somohardjo stressed that, although several coalition MPs, including Deputy Speaker Caprino Alendy, are preparing to travel to Taipei, this is not an official delegation representing the Suriname government. All participants including politicians, businessmen and union leaders were invited by the Taiwanese government as individuals.
Somohardjo is annoyed over the pressure Beijing is putting on the Suriname government regarding the Taiwan-issue. He argued that his party, Pertjajah Luhur, as part of the coalition government is sticking to the One-China policy until the 2010 general elections.
“What the government will do after 2010 is yet to be seen,” Somohardjo told reporters. He further claims that China could not determine for Suriname with which country it should maintain bilateral relations. “Not because I am your friend, it means that your enemy should be my enemy also,” said the party leader.
From within the coalition there are calls to those MPs who got an invitation from Taiwan, not to participate. But, according to Alendy, Suriname should not reject Taiwan’s offer for assistance without even taking a second look at the offer. He wants to discover for himself what the Taiwanese government is prepared to do for Suriname without formal or political recognition from the Suriname government. Alendy noted that Suriname and Taiwan could maintain cultural and economic relations.
“We are embarrassing ourselves internationally,” said Foreign Minister Kraag-Keteldijk. She hopes that this issue will be resolved at the political level. “I’m not sure if the president should take the initiative, but certainly this issue should be resolved at the political level,” she said in an invited comment.
According to David Chin, secretary of the Suriname-Taiwan Friendship Foundation, the trip to Taiwan will not be delayed or cancelled over the actions from Beijing. He claims that China could never dictate to Suriname as a sovereign state and its citizens with whom they should maintain relations. Through the foundation, Taipei proposed development aid for infrastructure, education, IC technology and agriculture.
During his visit to Beijing, vice president Ram Sardjoe sealed several loan agreements totaling US$30 million, including financing establishment of a container scan for the port in Paramaribo.
The vice president also secured a contract to asphalt a main road connecting the capital with the southern interior of the country, a project that was also offered by Taiwan. According to Sardjoe the Suriname government did not put pressure to Beijing to agree with the road improvement project since Taipei had offered the same. The agreement was reached by mutual consent.
Taiwan and China are battling for influence in the Caribbean region using so-called dollar or chequebook diplomacy. Taiwan is regarded by China as a renegade province and Beijing is aiming at re-unification of the two regions. Minister Kraag-Keteldijk said that the Suriname government supports a peaceful re-unification of the two countries.