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Taiwan's minister fails with Mandela

JOHANNESBURG, Dec. 4 -- Taiwanese Foreign Minister John Chang failed Wednesday to convince South African President Nelson Mandela to reverse his decision to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan and establish full relations with China. Mandela, after meeting with Chang in Pretoria, told a joint news conference his government would proceed with the decision to sever diplomatic ties with Taipei over a 12-month period, but he said South Africa wanted to maintain the best possible relations with Taiwan. 'We are going to maintain relations from the highest level short of diplomatic relations,' Mandela said, adding a joint committee would work out the details of future relations. The South African president said he had been concerned about the possible negative impact his decision would have on Taiwanese investment in South Africa, but was encouraged by statements by Taiwanese businesses that trade and business ties would remain. Taiwan is South Africa's seventh largest trading partner with bilateral trade for 1995 valued at $1.3 billion and Taiwanese investment in the African nation estimated at $1.4 billion. But a dramatic increase in trade between China and South Africa from $14.65 million in 1991 to $1.3 billion in 1995 had prompted calls within South Africa for the establishment of formal ties with Beijing at the expense of Taipei. Chang said he understood the reasons behind Mandela's decision to cut diplomatic ties and hoped relations would remain good. South Africa is the largest of Taiwan's 30 diplomatic allies, with most of Taipei's remaining diplomatic partners predominately small underdeveloped Latin American, African and Caribbean states.

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Reversing a stated foreign policy that South Africa would not desert Taiwan, Mandela announced last week that his government would sever ties with Taipei and establish diplomatic relations with Beijing. Mandela said he agonized over the decision but South Africa's future lay with China because of its growing economy and international political status. Mandela's decision to choose between China and Taiwan was necessitated by Beijing's long-standing refusal to recognize Taiwan or establish diplomatic ties with any country that does.

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