Taiwan accuses China of using ‘vaccine diplomacy’ to lure Paraguay

Taiwan again accused China on Wednesday (7) of pledging Covid-19 vaccines to the Paraguayan government in exchange for the end of the South American country’s diplomatic support for territory that Beijing considers a rebel province.

Paraguay is one of 15 countries that still maintain formal ties with Taiwan despite China’s campaign that the island is denied diplomatic recognition.

According to Taiwanese Chancellor Joseph Wu, Xi Jinping’s regime is “showing strength” with its vaccine diplomacy, particularly in South and Central America, where some of Taiwan’s main remaining allies are located.

“If you look at countries that are getting Chinese vaccines, like Brazil, Chile or El Salvador, I think it has a lot of impact on our diplomatic allies,” Wu said, citing three countries that are no longer part of. the list of supporters of the Taiwanese cause.

In Paraguay, in particular, the chancellor said Beijing was “very active” saying that if the country severed ties with Taiwan, it would receive millions of doses of Chinese vaccines.

“It put a lot of pressure on the government of President Mario Abdo Benítez and also put a lot of pressure on us to find the support we need,” Wu said, adding that Paraguay’s political opposition is ” very willing to partner with China. “..

Abdo Benítez was the target of protests in March over accusations of mismanagement in the pandemic response after the country’s worsening health crisis. Political instability in Paraguay led to a demand for the president’s impeachment which, despite the wave of protests in the streets, ended up being shelved.

Last month, the Paraguayan chancellor traveled to Brasilia to ask, in addition to supporting his president, the political ally of Jair Bolsonaro, for donations of drugs and vaccines against Covid-19. He returned to Asunción empty-handed, although details of the conversation were not disclosed by the Planalto Palace.

Two weeks ago, the Paraguayan Foreign Ministry issued a statement warning against “offers from companies, intermediaries and other private actors” who identify themselves as representatives of the China for the supply of coronavirus vaccines.

According to the document, “there are serious doubts as to the authenticity of the aforementioned representations”, which would condition the sovereignty of the Paraguayan state by insinuating the severing of relations with Taiwan as a condition for the purchase of Chinese vaccines.

The statement, while relieving Beijing of responsibility for such offers, shows that Paraguay is unwilling to engage in this type of political negotiation.

“ A distressing humanitarian scenario, such as that caused by the pandemic that affects us, must not serve to satisfy the interests of the small sector, nor to manipulate or impose specific actions on the part of States, taking advantage of their efforts to protect the health of their populations, with the sole aim of seeking political or economic profit ”, specifies the text.

In this scenario, Taiwan has entered into talks with countries like Japan, the United States and India, according to Wu, in order to meet some of the urgent Paraguayan demand and, thus, to bypass Chinese pressure.

At the end of March, the Indian government donated 100,000 doses of the Covaxin immunizer, produced by the Bharat Biotech laboratory. 100,000 additional doses, according to the Taiwanese Chancellor, should be sent to the country soon.

As Paraguayans took to the streets against their president, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the country to “continue to work with its regional and global democratic partners, including Taiwan, to overcome the pandemic, fight corruption and increase transparency “.

China denies any attempt to lure Paraguay by offering vaccines. Chinese diplomacy spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the reports were part of a disinformation campaign orchestrated by Taiwan.

“We urge those in Taiwan to end any form of political manipulation or slander, because all such attempts are doomed to failure,” he said at a press conference when the first accusations emerged. .

More recently, the cabinet spokesperson for Taiwan-related issues at the Mainland China Council of State responded to the Paraguay affair by saying that Beijing was opposed to any act of politicizing vaccination.

“China has always advocated making Covid-19 vaccines publicly available worldwide and has taken concrete steps to provide vaccines to countries in need,” Zhu Fenglian said, according to the Xinhua news agency.

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