Nov. 15 (Bloomberg) -- The West African nation of Gambia cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan, leaving President Ma Ying-jeou’s government with one less formal ally as China courts nations that recognize the island’s sovereignty.
Gambia will maintain a “friendship” with Taiwan and hasn’t established diplomatic ties with China, the government said in a statement read over state-owned Gambia Radio & Television Services yesterday.
The break means Taiwan now has 22 formal allies compared with China’s 165. China, which claims sovereignty over the island, has recently strengthened contacts with nations that recognize Taiwan, including Honduras and Sao Tome and Principe.
Ties are “suspended” and the move was Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s “personal decision,” David Wang, director-general of African affairs at Taiwan’s foreign ministry, said at a briefing today. Gambia will maintain its neutrality on cross-strait affairs, Wang said.
Gambia withdrew from the Commonwealth of Nations, a group mostly made up of former British colonies, last month. The government said it will “never be a member of any neo-colonial institution and will never be a party to any institution that represents an extension of colonialism,” the country’s Daily Observer newspaper said at the time, citing a statement from the president’s office.
“We also learned about this from the foreign media,” China Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a briefing in Beijing today. “China and Gambia weren’t in contact before this.”
China has set up a trade office in Sao Tome and Principe, another diplomatic ally of Taiwan in Africa, another Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, said yesterday. Honduras, also a Taiwan ally, signed a $293 million loan with a Chinese bank in September to fund a dam project.
Taiwan remains Gambia’s biggest development partner after the European Union, according to the Gambian government.
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