Castries (St Lucia): The tiny island of St Lucia has announced it will maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan, surprising many who expected the new government to favour China.
Prime Minister Kenny Anthony said in an address late yesterday that he wants to explore new opportunities for bilateral cooperation with Taiwan, but that he also wants to maintain fraternal relations with China.
The ruling Labor Party has always allied itself with China in the past, but Anthony said St Lucia needs to stop acting like "a jack in the box jumping from one country to the other every few years."
St Lucia held relations with Taiwan from 1984 to 1997, with China from 1997 to 2006 and again with Taiwan since 2006.
Anthony stressed that he plans to foster ties with Beijing, adding that St Lucia`s foreign minister and other government officials are currently in China talking about what he said were issues of mutual interest.
"We simply cannot cast aside our friends," he said. "It would be both historic and helpful ... If St Lucia could find a way to benefit from ties with both China and Taiwan, however they can."
Before the Labor Party came to power in December 2011, Anthony promised he would make it a priority to review the island`s foreign relations policy, leading political analysts to believe the island would switch to renewed ties with China.
Anthony and his party have continuously criticised Taiwan`s close ties with the opposition United Workers Party, and Anthony said his government will launch an audit into Taipei`s financial assistance to the UWP and its lawmakers while the party was in power.
During his address to the nation, Anthony also accused Taiwan`s previous ambassador, Tom Chou, of meddling in domestic affairs and warned the new ambassador to respect the island`s laws and not interfere in local politics.
Since re-establishing ties with Taiwan in 2006, St Lucia has received numerous grants and loans to finance roadwork and various economic development projects including a meat processing plant.
China and Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing claims as a renegade province, split amid civil war in 1949. Both have sought to establish alliances with Caribbean countries in recent years.
Taiwan currently has 23 diplomatic allies, five of them in the Caribbean, including the Dominican Republic, Haiti, St Kitts and Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines.