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China downplays visit of Taiwan African ally that upsets Taipei
June 11, 2014 / 9:28 AM / 3 years ago

China downplays visit of Taiwan African ally that upsets Taipei

BEIJING (Reuters) - China shrugged off Taiwan’s concern over the visit of the president of Taiwan diplomatic ally Sao Tome and Principe on Wednesday, saying it was a private visit and that not too much should be read into it.

The former Portuguese colony is among a few African nations, along with Burkina Faso and Swaziland, that recognize self-ruled Taiwan over China.

China regards Taiwan as a renegade province to be recovered by force if necessary.

The two sides have engaged in an unofficial diplomatic truce since signing a series of landmark trade and economic agreements in 2008, as China tries to convince Taiwan of its friendly intentions after decades of hostility and suspicion.

But Gambia severed relations with Taiwan last November, causing anger in Taipei, while the same month Sao Tome said China would open a trade mission, prompting suspicion in Taiwan that China was going after its remaining African allies. [ID:nL5N0IZ289][ID:nL5N0IZ5X7]

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that Sao Tome President Manuel Pinto da Costa was on a private visit to attend a “trade and business activity” about which she had no details.

“I don’t believe that the outside should read too much into this,” she told a daily news briefing.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it was “highly concerned” about the visit, adding that it had been told by Sao Tome that its president was in China to attract investment for a port project.

Anti-China feeling has been running high in Taiwan after protesters opposed to a trade pact with China occupied the island’s parliament for three weeks in late March and early April. There were also mass street demonstrations.

It was the largest anti-Beijing protest in years on the island, where Nationalist forces fled in 1949 after losing to the Communists in the Chinese civil war.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Faith Hung in TAIPEI; Editing by Nick Macfie

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