Taiwan has opened a representative office in Guyana, the Taipei foreign ministry said on Thursday, drawing praise from Washington which has been worried about growing Chinese influence in Latin America, Reuters is reporting.
The former British colony is strategically located next to strife-torn Venezuela, a major Chinese ally with which Guyana has an ongoing bitter territorial dispute.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it had signed an agreement with Guyana’s government on Jan 11 to open a Taiwan office, in effect a de facto embassy for the island that China claims as its sovereign territory with no right to its own diplomatic ties.
The Taipei ministry said the office had begun initial operations on Jan 15, noting that Guyana was a country with rich mining and oil resources and its capital Georgetown was the seat of the secretariat for the Caribbean Community, or Caricom.
Foreign Minister Hugh Todd said what is being set up is a trade and investment office in Georgetown to “create space” for the private sector in Taiwan and Guyana to do business.
He stressed that: “Guyana is not recognising Taiwan as an independent state. Guyana is not establishing diplomatic relations with Taipei.”
The US embassy in Guyana said it applauded the agreement. “Closer ties with Taiwan will advance cooperation and development in Guyana on the basis of shared democratic values, transparency, and mutual respect,” it said in a statement.
Taiwan only has formal diplomatic relations with 14 countries worldwide but maintains unofficial relations with 57 UN member states via its representative offices.
Washington has been angered by China slowly luring away Taiwan’s support in South America until Paraguay is now the island’s sole remaining ally in the region.
In 2018, the US attacked El Salvador’s decision to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favour of China, saying the change was of grave concern to Washington and warning that China was offering economic inducements to countries in need in order to gain dominance.