29 Mar 2023

Fiji govt will again use Taiwan's official name

2:01 pm on 29 March 2023
Jessica Lee of the Taiwan Trade Mission in Fiji addresses guests at its national day celebrations in Suva on 8 October.

Archive photograph of Jessica Lee of the Taiwan Trade Mission in Fiji addressing guests at its national day celebrations in Suva. Photo: Supplied/Taiwan Trade Mission, Suva

Fiji's coalition government is indicating that it is softening its stance on Taiwan by allowing it to use its official name for its representative office in the country, a move that is likely to upset China.

Taiwan's foreign affairs ministry (MOFA) said it had been officially notified by Fiji of its change in position last Friday.

However, Fiji will continue to formally recognise China over Taiwan.

Taiwan's overseas mission name was changed to Taipei Trade Office in Fiji in 2018 by then prime minister Frank Bainimarama's administration after pressure from Beijing, according to MOFA's East Asia and Pacific Affairs head Wallace Chow.

But Chow told Central News Agency (CNA) that it was no longer the case as of March 15.

He said the Taiwan office will now be called the Trade Mission of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the Republic of Fiji.

The change in position also means that Taiwanese diplomats in Suva will again enjoy full diplomatic privileges according to Fiji's diplomatic laws.

The Fijian government is yet to comment on the Taiwan announcement but RNZ Pacific has contacted Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka's office for comment.

"MOFA affirms and appreciates this decision by the new Fijian administration," MOFA said in a statement on Tuesday.

"It stresses that Fiji is an important, like-minded cooperation partner of Taiwan in the Pacific region.

"The governments of the two countries will build on the existing foundation of cooperation to steadily engage in exchanges, deepen bilateral friendship, and jointly ensure democratic advancement, peace, stability, and economic prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region."

According to Chow, the move was made despite the lack of official diplomatic relations between the two countries.

He said the reversal of the policy of the Bainimarama government has occurred because Fiji's three-party coalition government was "Taiwan-friendly."

Taiwan established its presence in Fiji in 1971 and have engaged across a range of socio-economic areas, including agriculture, fishery, medicine, education, and development of human resources, contributing substantively to the welfare of the Fijian people.

Meanwhile, this week Honduras severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan saying it only recognised Beijing.

Taiwan's foreign minister accused the Central American country of demanding exorbitant amounts of money and being lured by Beijing.

Taiwan is now only recognised by 13 sovereign states. Four of those are in the Pacific: Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau and Tuvalu.