Taiwan says China 'impertinently' wants it to soften representation in 5 countries

TAIPEI (Reuters) - China has been pressuring the United Arab Emirates and four other countries to ask Taiwan to rename its representative offices in another sign of diplomatic pressure on the self-ruled island, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said on Thursday.

China regards Taiwan as a renegade province to be brought back under its sovereignty by force, if necessary.

The pressure from Beijing on the UAE, Bahrain, Ecuador, Jordan, and Nigeria follows Panama’s decision this week to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan and instead recognize China and its “One China” policy.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in a statement China wanted the five countries to ask Taiwan to use names, such as “Taipei Trade Office”, that do not suggest Taiwanese sovereignty.

“China is acting to suppress us in an impertinent way that has seriously offended the sensibilities of Taiwan’s people,” the statement said.

Taiwan and China have tried to poach each other’s diplomatic allies ever since Taiwan’s expulsion from the United Nations in 1971, to allow formal recognition of China.

Lu Kang, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, did not confirm Taiwan’s claim, but said the “one China” principle was “an important political prerequisite” for the country to establish diplomatic ties.

“China highly appreciates and approves of relevant countries’ handling of Taiwan-related issues in line with the one-China principle,” Lu told a regular news briefing.

Taiwan’s office in Jordan is now called the “Commercial Office of the Republic of China”.

The Republic of China is Taiwan’s official name and dates back to the ROC government’s control of mainland China before it fled to the island at the end of China’s civil war.

The cross-strait rivals have often engaged in “dollar diplomacy”, dangling generous aid packages in front of developing nations, although Taiwan has struggled to compete with an increasingly powerful China.

Panama became the second country to switch its recognition to Beijing since Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took office last year, following Sao Tome and Principe last December, reducing to 20 the number of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies.

Taiwan had as many as 30 diplomatic allies in the mid-1990s. Its remaining formal ties are with mostly smaller and poorer nations in Latin America and the Pacific.

Reporting by Faith Hung; Additional reporting by Michael Martina and Christian Shepherd in BEIJING; Editing by Paul Tait and Clarence Fernandez