SAO TOME Nov 13 China plans to open a trade
mission to promote projects in Sao Tome and Principe, 16 years
after it broke off relations over the tiny Central African
nation's diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, Sao Tome officials
The ex-Portuguese colony is among a few African nations,
along with Burkina Faso, Swaziland and The Gambia, that
recognise Taiwan, which China formally regards as a renegade
province to be recovered by force if necessary.
The agreement between the Sao Tome government and Chinese
representatives was signed on Tuesday on the premises of the
former Chinese Embassy in the country's capital.
"The islands of Sao Tome must be open to the world, making
friends and partnerships," said Liberato Moniz, who represented
President Manuel Pinto da Costa at the signing.
Sao Tome Public Works Minister Osvaldo Abreu said Chinese
businessmen and industrialists would soon arrive in the country
under the agreement and that a planned $400 million deepwater
port could be a target for potential collaboration.
Sao Tome and Principe's tiny island economy is heavily
dependent on cocoa exports but its location in the middle of the
oil-rich Gulf of Guinea has raised interest in its potential as
a possible future oil and gas producer.
Sao Tome officials did not say whether the new cooperation
deal with Beijing would affect diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
The People's Republic of China says separately ruled Taiwan
has no right to diplomatic recognition as it is part of China.
The two have been governed separately since the Communist
Party won the Chinese civil war in 1949, and the Nationalists
fled across a 180-km (110-mile)-wide strait to Taiwan.
But China and Taiwan have signed a series of landmark trade
and economic deals since China-friendly Ma Ying-jeou was elected
Taiwan's president in 2008.
To maintain that more friendly momentum, the two sides have
since observed an unofficial truce in the competition to court
Costa Rica was the most recent nation to recognise Beijing
in 2007, leaving Taiwan with 23 allies ranging in size from
Paraguay to the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru.
(Reporting by Ricardo Neto; Additional reporting by Ben
Blanchard in Beijing; Writing by Joe Bavier, editing by Mark