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Taiwan president plans official S. Pacific visit

Written by: Staff

TAIPEI, Aug 9 (Reuters) Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian plans to visit allies in the South Pacific next month, his office said today, a move that followed Taiwan's sudden loss of Chad as a diplomatic ally to rival China.

Chad cut ties on Saturday, a day before Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang was due to visit the oil-producing African nation. To date, only 24 countries recognise Taiwan, many of which are small nations in the South Pacific, Latin America and Africa.

Beijing sees Taiwan as a renegade province and hopes to isolate it diplomatically to pressure a reunification with China.

In September, Chen will make a formal state visit to Nauru and hold a summit in Palau with leaders of all six South Pacific nations with which Taiwan has formal relations, local media said today.

The presidential office confirmed that Chen was visiting the South Pacific in September, but said the itinerary had not been set.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Michel Lu said yesterday the cut in relations with Chad was a blow to Taiwan. He had accused China of arranging a switch in diplomatic relations to embarrass Taiwan before the premier's trip to Chad. China forbids any diplomatic ally from maintaining formal relations with Taiwan.

Lu called the South Pacific trip a ''routine visit.'' ''This diplomatic activity is a segment of our foreign relations work,'' he said. ''There's no connection at all with Chad.'' Reuters PB DB1024

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