Taiwan is strengthening ties with the unrecognized government of Somaliland in a bid to bolster its dwindling number of allies.
While the move falls short of full diplomatic recognition, the last time Taiwan managed to persuade a country to establish ties with it rather than China was with the Caribbean island of St Lucia in 2007. China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and seeks to isolate the island by denying it formal diplomatic recognition with other countries.
Taiwan will set up a representative office in Somaliland, the island’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Twitter Wednesday. The tweet was signed JW, indicating it’s in the words of Foreign Minister Joseph Wu.
“We’re thousands of miles apart, but share a deep-seated love of freedom & democracy,” Wu said in the tweet, referring to the area as an independent country. Somaliland, an autonomous region in northern Somalia, isn’t recognized as an independent state by any other nation.
Both sides will cooperate in areas such as fisheries, agriculture, energy and mining after representative offices set up in both countries, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“The assistance that Taiwan offers Somaliland includes alternative plans for import of vegetables and fruits, and electronic official document and file management, which we believe are very important to Somaliland,” Wu said. “Somaliland has abundant mining resources, so the relationship will be mutually beneficial.”
Since President Tsai Ing-wen was first elected in January 2016, China has lured away a third of Taiwan’s then-22 allies. Only 15 nations — mainly small ones in the Pacific and Central America — now recognize Taiwan after Kiribati became the latest to switch ties to Beijing in September.
The exodus of Taiwan’s allies has become an increasing concern for the U.S., the island’s main military supporter, as President Donald Trump ratchets up economic and diplomatic pressure on Beijing amid deteriorating ties between the world’s two biggest economies.
Despite not recognizing Taiwan itself, the U.S. has spent considerable effort over the past year persuading the island’s few remaining allies not to switch ties to China.
Wednesday’s announcement comes after China imposed its controversial new security law on Hong Kong, a move that’s raised fears about the city’s autonomy and basic freedoms. Earlier in the day, Taiwan officially opened an office dedicated to attracting Hong Kong residents and companies fearful of the new legislation to move to the island.