TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday pitched the need to jointly defend democracy against authoritarianism as she sought to shore up shaky ties with Paraguay, and said they were good friends.
Paraguay is one of only 14 countries to have formal diplomatic relations with Chinese-claimed Taiwan, and Beijing has been stepping up efforts to get those remaining allies to ditch Taipei.
Paraguay would cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan and open relations with China if the opposition wins an election in April, its presidential candidate Efrain Alegre told Reuters, hoping to boost economically important soy and beef exports.
Meeting a cross-party delegation of Paraguayan lawmakers, led by lower house speaker Carlos Maria Lopez Lopez, Tsai recalled her visit to the country in 2016 and the “deep friendship” between Taiwan and Paraguay.
Cooperation between the two is very good and trade relations are getting closer, she added at the meeting in the presidential office in Taipei, describing those present as all good friends of Taiwan.
“I would like to emphasise again that in the face of the continued expansion of authoritarianism, us allies on the democratic front must strengthen cooperation in order to jointly protect our way of life,” Tsai said.
Alegre is head of the Authentic Radical Liberal Party, as is Lopez.
Lopez, who had expressed his support for Taiwan, told Tsai he believed that cooperation between the two would make their friendship stronger.
“This long friendship of more than 65 years between our two nations is distant in terms of kilometres but not in terms of the affection and appreciation we have,” he said.
Santiago Pena, the Colorado Party candidate, said Paraguay’s more than six decades of ties with Taiwan would remain intact if he won the April 30 vote.
Paraguay’s Taiwan ties have been under the pressure in recent years, especially from the country’s beef producers and farmers, who see the relationship as an obstacle to gaining access to the world’s largest market for their products.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Carlos Garcia. Editing by Gerry Doyle)