Taiwan urges Nigeria to discuss trade office move demand

Taipei Taiwan urged Nigeria to leave room for talks after the West African country demanded Taiwan move its representative office from Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, to the country's largest city of Lagos, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Thursday.

Taiwan will send an envoy to deal with the issue, the ministry said.

Ministry spokeswoman Eleanor Wang (???) noted that Taiwan and Nigeria signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on setting up the mission in 1990, and she called on Nigeria to leave room for coordination, based on the principles of equality and mutual benefit.

Wang noted that Taiwan and Nigeria have never established diplomatic relations, but said that Nigeria has acted in line with China's wishes to demand the moving of the Taiwan office to Lagos.

China News Service reported that Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama reaffirmed a day earlier his country's commitment to the "one China" policy at a joint news conference with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, who is on a five-nation visit to Africa.

Wang Yi said Nigeria had asked Taiwan to move its mission out of Abuja a few days ago and now banned Nigerian officials from any official contacts with their Taiwanese counterparts, which he said removed the political hurdles that could hamper the healthy development of China-Nigeria relations.

"The ministry wants to lodge a serious protest and condemnation of Nigeria's irrational deeds," Eleanor Wang said.

She noted that Taiwan and Nigeria signed the MOU in a bid to promote mutually beneficial trade relations in November 1990.

The Trade Mission of the Republic of China (Taiwan) was established in Lagos, Nigeria's former capital, in April the following year. Despite its name, the office is staffed with personnel from Taiwan's foreign ministry as well as the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Nigeria also set up a trade office in Taiwan in November 1992.

Taiwan's mission moved to the new capital of Abuja in August 2001 after receiving approval from the Nigerian government.

Since then, China has continued to pressure Nigeria, so that a commission in the Nigerian Foreign Ministry passed a resolution to demand the closure of Taiwan mission, the ministry spokeswoman said.

The Nigerian move coincides with President Tsai Ing-wen's (???) visit to Central American diplomatic allies, and comes less than one month after another West African country, Sao Tome and Principe, severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan and established formal ties with China.

Cross-Taiwan Strait relations have been chilly since Tsai of the Democratic Progressive Party, which has traditionally supported independence from China, assumed office in May 2016.

China has ratcheted up its pressure on Taiwan recently after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump had a phone conversation with Tsai in early December, breaking the convention of no U.S. contact with Taiwan at that level in four decades.

In an act seen as making a political statement, China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, sailed through the Taiwan Strait Wednesday after conducting exercises in the South China Sea.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel