Can we afford to gamble at this time?

PM Kenny Anthony meets with Republic of China (Taiwan) Foreign Minister Timothy Yang at official residence.

Given that only fools too quickly understand diplomatic dispatches, forgive me if I should take a page from the book of angels and tread with dread as I read between the lines of the latest press communiqué from the Taiwanese embassy, issued at the conclusion of a 3-day visit by Timothy Yang, foreign affairs minister of the Republic of China (Taiwan).
According to the release, soon after his arrival last Thursday Mr. Yang had not only congratulated our newly elected prime minister and his Cabinet, but he had also expressed his own government’s “continued support to the social and economic development of Saint Lucia.” Moreover, Mr Yang had exchanged views with the prime minister and Mr Alva Baptiste “regarding the priority of the projects of the new government and other issues of mutual concern.”
No one could legitimately blame you, dear reader, if you should deduce from the preceding that all continues to be well with Saint Lucia and the Republic of China and that our diplomatic relationship, somewhat controversially re-established in 2006, remains intact. But then what to make of the prime minister’s televised pronouncements on Friday and Saturday evening that sounded so much like ominous ultimatums? It can hardly be news that both as opposition leader and prime minister Kenny Anthony had declared his determination to secure from the Taiwanese a satisfactory accounting for the millions of dollars invested by their government in the people of Saint Lucia, to say nothing of the widely publicized persistent demands for the immediate recall at all cost of Ambassador Tom Chou.
The issue becomes even more confusing when the prime minister’s recent olive-branch overtures are also taken into account. Consider this line from the governor general’s throne speech, delivered only last Thursday: “My government believes the time has come to make peace with our past . . . we must start to redress the wrongs of the past . . . it is time to end some of the unnecessary rancor, pettiness and divisiveness that has characterized our political culture . . .”
What good purpose could it possibly have served to demonstrate yet again, on TV—when the visiting Taiwanese foreign minister was dining with Cabinet members—the rancor, pettiness and divisiveness that the prime minister, via the governor general’s throne speech, had declared “unnecessary” mere hours before the visitor’s plane touched down at Hewanorra Airport?
The earlier cited embassy press release underscored the sincerity of the Taiwanese prime minister when he promised his local counterpart he would do “his utmost within his capabilities to cooperate with Saint Lucia and remain good partners for the benefit of their peoples.”
There was also this, taken from the same release: “Mr Yang further explained in detail that Taiwan’s new and pragmatic mainland China’s policy and the new ‘viable diplomacy’ policy adopted by President Ma Ying-Jeou have allowed the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to shelve their differences and controversies and resume meaningful dialogue, leading to the signing of 16 new arrangements such as the free-trade agreement-like Economic Cooperation Framework agreement, as well as agreements concerning judicial cooperation, crime fighting, protection of intellectual property rights, promotion of tourism and others, and has led to a frequent high-level interaction and exchange of visits.”
The embassy’s press communiqué also includes the following: “On the international level, the controversial approach adopted in the past by both sides of the strait toward each other has also ceased under Taiwan’s current ‘viable diplomacy.’ These two sets of policies have in fact changed the previous vicious cycle of mutual distrust and have helped develop a virtuous cycle of harmony.”
Is there an implied diplomatic message in the immediately preceding statement? Is it the Taiwanese version of the Middle East’s bird-in-the-hand adage? On the other hand, is the prime minister’s apparent determination to have his cake and eat it just the usual politics intended only for local consumption? Lest I find myself accused of relying on yet another hackneyed cliché, let me again acknowledge that I am not sufficiently versed in the arcane language of diplomacy to attempt a useful interpretation of the most recent release from the Taiwanese embassy—or the words of the prime minister and his recently appointed inexperienced foreign affairs minister.
However, one thing is clear: Taiwan and Mainland China have in their mutual best interests agreed to bury their hatchets (oops, I did it again!). The likelihood of their resurrecting old animosities for the sole purpose of satisfying our possibly vindictive
political aspirations seems, at best, farfetched. If only we could, also in the name of survival, follow the example of Taiwan and Mainland China and put away our own relatively crude weapons of self-destruction!

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