Taiwan, Somaliland ties growing despite diplomatic isolation

February 9, 2022 GMT
In this photo released by the Taiwan Presidential Office, Somaliland Foreign Minister Essa Kayd, left, is greeted by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. Taiwan and Somaliland are expanding economic and political ties despite being two of the world's most diplomatically isolated governments. (Taiwan Presidential Office via AP)
In this photo released by the Taiwan Presidential Office, Somaliland Foreign Minister Essa Kayd, left, is greeted by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. Taiwan and Somaliland are expanding economic and political ties despite being two of the world's most diplomatically isolated governments. (Taiwan Presidential Office via AP)
In this photo released by the Taiwan Presidential Office, Somaliland Foreign Minister Essa Kayd, left, is greeted by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. Taiwan and Somaliland are expanding economic and political ties despite being two of the world's most diplomatically isolated governments. (Taiwan Presidential Office via AP)
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In this photo released by the Taiwan Presidential Office, Somaliland Foreign Minister Essa Kayd, left, is greeted by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. Taiwan and Somaliland are expanding economic and political ties despite being two of the world's most diplomatically isolated governments. (Taiwan Presidential Office via AP)
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In this photo released by the Taiwan Presidential Office, Somaliland Foreign Minister Essa Kayd, left, is greeted by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. Taiwan and Somaliland are expanding economic and political ties despite being two of the world's most diplomatically isolated governments. (Taiwan Presidential Office via AP)

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan and Somaliland are expanding economic and political ties despite being two of the world’s most diplomatically isolated governments.

Somaliland Foreign Minister Essa Kayd met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday and said his visit to Taipei “signifies our mutual determination and resolve to upscale, expand and deepen our friendship and cooperation to new heights for the mutual benefits of our two countries.”

Tsai hailed the relationship as one of her administration’s chief diplomatic breakthroughs.

Somaliland broke away from Somalia in 1991 and has no formal diplomatic relations with any nation.

Self-governing democratic Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, has diplomatic ties with just 14 countries, but maintains robust informal ties with the U.S. and most other major nations. It has formal relations with just one African nation, the kingdom of Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland.

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Taiwan opened its de facto embassy in the Somaliland capital of Hargeisa in August 2020, with Somaliland opening a representative office in Taipei on Sept. 9 the same year.

China works relentlessly to undermine such diplomatic arrangements, both formal and informal.

A February 2001 agreement to exchange trade offices with Guyana lasted barely 24 hours before Chinese pressure persuaded the the South American country to call off the move. And in December, Nicaragua switched diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China, even turning over the Taiwanese embassy building to Beijing.

Along with its growing diplomatic clout, China often uses its its massive economic resources as both an inducement to abandon Taiwan and a cudgel to threaten those who go against its will.

Most recently, China has banned trade with the tiny Baltic state of Lithuania and threatened to retaliate against foreign companies that do business with it.

China withdrew its ambassador to Vilnius and expelled the Lithuanian ambassador to Beijing after Lithuania agreed to allow Taiwan to open a representative office using the name Taiwan, rather than Chinese, Taipei, a term used by other countries to avoid offending Beijing.

Beijing accuses Lithuania of conspiring with the U.S. in a plot to “contain China.”

China also seeks to prevent Taiwan from representing itself in global forums and has refused all contacts with Tsai’s government since shortly after she came to power in 2016. Tsai was reelected last year by a large margin to a second four-year term.

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Neither Taiwan or Somaliland is recognized by the United Nations, but Kayd said that did not negate its right to an independent foreign policy.

“As a sovereign nation, Somaliland’s right to engage in peaceful and friendly foreign relations with all other nations is enshrined in international law,” Kayd was quoted as saying by Taiwan’s official Central News Agency.

“All coercive or threatening measures to deny such collaboration between international partners not only represent affront to the principle, protocols and norms on which the international order is based, but do little to promote the peace and security that the region and the world require,” he was quoted as saying.

Kayd is leading a delegation of ministers and the two sides hailed growing cooperation in agriculture, fisheries, education and energy.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian accused Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party government of “fanning the flames and undermining the independence and integrity of other countries.”

“This benefits nobody and will only end up hurting itself,” Zhao said at a daily briefing.