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São Tomé and Príncipe cuts ties with Taiwan amid China pressure

The Taiwanese president has said her country is facing a "diplomatic challenge."

By Elizabeth Shim
São Tomé and Príncipe cuts ties with Taiwan amid China pressure
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen may be facing increased pressure from China after her phone call with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, according to Taiwanese media. Photo courtesy of Office of the President of Taiwan

TAIPEI, Taiwan, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- A small African island nation is cutting diplomatic ties with Taiwan as China ramps up pressure on Taipei in response to a phone call between President Tsai Ing-wen and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.

São Tomé and Príncipe, a cluster of islands on the west of Africa, announced the changes Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported.

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Trade between the two countries is negligible, estimated to be about $358,000 a year. São Tomé is also an economic aid recipient.

But the shift could have been made based on promises of more financial support from Beijing, Taiwanese newspaper China Times reported Thursday.

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According to the Taiwanese press report, the African country had requested a large sum of financial assistance, or $210 million.

Taipei turned down the demands from the government that has been mired in a financial crisis since March.

São Tomé has been paying government employees in arrears and asked Taiwan to provide $70 million in grants and $140 million in loans to build airports and shipping docks, according to the report.

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The Taiwanese government turned down the request, offering instead $2 million in financial support.

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São Tomé rejected the offer and asked for $4 million, and also requested a new economic cooperation agreement.

Taiwan has previously pursued other channels of support, conferring a $25,000 scholarship to the son of São Tomé's president, although the student received poor grades and recently dropped out of school, according to the China Times.

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Tsai recently said, "Taiwan is facing a diplomatic challenge" although China's foreign ministry has yet to confirm relations with São Tomé are being established.

A ministry spokeswoman did say that Beijing welcomes São Tomé's announcement, calling it a "return to the right track of the 'one-China principle'."

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