Wednesday, June 20, 2007

China envoy posted in Costa Rica after 60 years

Costa Rica's Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno (R) talks with China's Business Attache Wang Xiaoyuan in San Jose, Costa Rica, June 18, 2007. Wang presented his accreditation with the first diplomat posted to Costa Rica since 1949. REUTERS/Juan Carlos UlateSAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) - China's first diplomatic envoy to Costa Rica in six decades took up his post on Monday, sealing the Central American nation's switch in allegiance this month to Beijing from Taipei.

China sent Wang Xiaoyuan as its Costa Rica business attache and is likely to eventually install him as ambassador after the two nations restored relations on June 1 as long-time Taiwan ally Costa Rica bowed to China's greater economic might.

After presenting his paperwork to Costa Rican officials on Monday and meeting Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno, Wang told reporters China would be patient over restoring ties with other nations that currently side with Taiwan.

"China is a fact that nobody can close their eyes to. Some have their reasons for not recognizing China and we can wait for them," he said in fluent Spanish.

Wang, 52 and a diplomat since the 1970s, is China's first diplomatic envoy to Costa Rica since before Mao Zedong's communist forces defeated Chiang Kai-shek in 1949 and forced him to flee to Taiwan.

China and Taiwan have faced off ever since, with Beijing's leaders maintaining that self-ruled, democratic Taiwan is a rebellious province within its territory rather than a separate country. Taiwan calls itself the Republic of China.

Costa Rica's change of sides leaves Taiwan with just 24 allies, most of them small, poor nations in Central America, the South Pacific and Africa. In comparison, more than 170 countries have diplomatic ties with China.

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias has said the move, ending decades of Taiwanese patronage for politicians' pet projects in Costa Rica, would increase business opportunities for the Central American country in booming China.

Other Central American nations have said they will not follow Costa Rica's move for now, but Guatemala's foreign minister warned of a "new dynamic" in the region which could force countries to examine their positions.

Wang has been a diplomat in Spain, Mexico, Cuba and Brazil and Chinese ambassador to Equatorial Guinea and Uruguay.

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