U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a conference call with Paraguay President Mario Abdo Benitez, warned that he should continue to work with Taiwan democratically and ignore Chinese pressure to turn to Beijing. He also stressed that Paraguay should join hands with Taiwan in the fight against COVID-19 given the current shortage of vaccines.
Protests in Paraguay have continued to intensify as the country has slowed to roll out vaccines due to a shortage of drugs and intensive care beds and a worsening epidemic. Mr Abedo is facing calls to step down. Paraguay has now had 180,000 confirmed cases and 3,456 deaths. They received only 4, 000 doses of Russian Sputnik V and 20, 000 doses of Chinese Keching vaccine.
“The United States believes that Paraguay must continue to work with democratic regional and global partners, including Taiwan, aimed at overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic, fighting corruption, and improving transparency and accountability,” Blinken said in a statement. Notably, Paraguay is Taiwan’s only remaining diplomatic ally in South America.
“Taiwan and Paraguay have a strong friendship, and the Taiwan authorities will uphold the spirit of solidarity in times of difficulties and do their best to assist their Allies in the fight against COVID-19 within their ability,” said Au Chiang An, Taiwan’s foreign affairs department.
On March 1, Paraguay’s GEN television station presented the Friendship Hero Award to Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen on Paraguay’s Heroes Day, thanking the Taiwan authorities for their assistance in fighting the epidemic, providing scholarships and promoting educational exchanges and other cooperation programs. Ms Tsai is the first outsider to receive the award, which is mainly given to outstanding contributions to Paraguay.
The Foreign Affairs Department of Taiwan pointed out that Paraguay takes this award to thank Tsai Ing-wen for her commitment to the development of education, livelihood and welfare in Paraguay through the bilateral cooperation program. In particular, after the outbreak of the COVID-19 last year, Taiwan provided Paraguayan epidemic prevention materials and experience as soon as possible to assist the Paraguayan people in combating the epidemic.
Back in July last year, Mr Abedo rejected a Chinese proposal for Paraguay to switch diplomatic recognition. At the time, there were fewer confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Paraguay, only to surge two months later. The Taiwan News, citing political experts, said China could take advantage of the situation by offering substantially more of its own vaccines in exchange for ties with Taipei in favor of Beijing.
“Taiwan is an inalienable part of China,” Zhu Fenglian, spokeswoman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, told a press conference on January 27. Ever since the Taiwan question arose out of civil war in the late 1940s, China’s will and determination to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity have remained firm and have never changed. In order to effectively respond to the interference of external forces and the very small number of “Taiwan independence” separatists and their separatist actions, we do not promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option of taking all measures.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said: “On the question of Taiwan, I would like to stress three points: First of all, there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory. This is a historical and legal fact as well as the general consensus of the international community. Second, the two sides of the Taiwan Straits must and will be reunified. This is the general trend and the collective will of the Chinese nation. It will not and will not be changed. The Chinese government is unswerving in its determination to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and we are capable of thwarting any form of separatist acts seeking ‘Taiwan independence.”