TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan said China has been pressuring the governments of five countries in the Middle East, Africa and South America to force the island to change the names of its unofficial representative offices.
The foreign ministry said that Beijing had pressured Nigeria, Bahrain, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Ecuador to remove "Republic of China" — Taiwan's formal name — or "Taiwan" from Taiwan's trade offices. None of the five is among Taiwan's 20 remaining official allies.
Antonio Chen, director general of the ministry's Department of West Asia and African Affairs, was quoted by the official Central News Agency on Wednesday as saying that Taiwan's office in Dubai, in the UAE, had already changed its name from the "Commercial Office of ROC (Taiwan)" to the "Commercial Office of Taipei."
Meanwhile, Taiwan has already recalled its representative to Nigeria and suspended its mission's work there after the Nigerian government said it "could not guarantee its safety," Chen was quoted as saying.
Still, Chen said Taiwan needed to keep as many of its overseas offices open as possible.
"Although we feel being belittled, we still have to maintain the offices out of the long-term interests of Taiwan's citizens," he said.
The moves suggest Beijing is increasing the pressure on Taiwan, a self-governing democracy that Beijing claims as its territory.
On Tuesday, Panama switched diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China, dealing a major success to China in its campaign to isolate the island and increase pressure on President Tsai Ing-wen to accede to Beijing's demand that she recognize Taiwan as part of Chinese territory.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters Thursday that the "One China" policy was fundamental and Beijing appreciates "these nations' way of handling issues with Taiwan."
With Panama's departure, speculation has grown that other Taiwanese allies will follow suit.
In addition to ratcheting up diplomatic pressure on Taiwan, China has cut off contacts with the island's government, discouraged travel there by Chinese tourists and blocked Taiwanese representatives from taking part in international gatherings such as the World Health Organization's annual assembly.