Small island's decision on diplomacy has China in uproar

Published May 2, 2007

CASTRIES, St. Lucia - This tiny Caribbean island may have thought it was no big deal when it severed its 10-year relations with China and restored ties on Tuesday with rival Taiwan. Wrong.

China, which built a stadium and was finishing a psychiatric hospital here and considers Taiwan a renegade province, called the move a "brutal interference in China's internal affairs." In short order, one of the world's smallest nations has now made an enemy out of one of the largest.

Both Taiwan and China, which for more than 20 years have battled for diplomatic allies, brought out their big guns to curry favor with St. Lucia, a verdant, mountainous 240-square-mile island that is home to 168, 000 people.

China, a vast nation of 1.3-billion people, sent its foreign minister for a two-day visit in September. Taiwan dispatched Foreign Minister James Huang in late April. On Tuesday, he and St. Lucian Foreign Minister Rufus Bousquet signed an agreement establishing diplomatic relations.

China, which had established relations with St. Lucia island 10 years ago, was apoplectic at the reversal.

"We express indignation and opposition, " Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said.

Bousquet said Taiwan has agreed to help St. Lucia diversify its agriculture sector, boost tourism, develop livestock and create information technology learning centers.

He had indicated that any decision would be based on which suitor could offer a better deal to St. Lucia, where some 20 percent of the population lives in poverty. As he put it in April: "Support those who give you the most."