June 1, 2018 / 12:53 PM / 6 months ago

eSwatini says keeping Taiwan diplomatic relations despite Chinese pressure

MBABANE (Reuters) - The Kingdom of eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland, will maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan, a government spokesman told Reuters on Friday, despite Chinese pressure on the southern African nation to sever ties with Taiwan.

eSwatini has had close relations with Taiwan for several decades and is its last remaining African ally after a concerted push by Beijing to isolate the self-ruled island off the east coast of China.

The Chinese government’s top diplomat last month urged eSwatini to follow the west African state of Burkina Faso in ending ties with Taiwan, which Beijing says is a Chinese province.

“There is no change of heart or position on our ties with Taiwan. Whoever spreads rumours that we will ditch Taiwan can be referred to as a fake news peddler,” said Percy Simelane, a spokesman for the government of eSwatini.

King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch, changed his country’s name to eSwatini, meaning “land of the Swazis”, in April during celebrations to mark 50 years of independence.

China’s foreign ministry said on Friday that it hoped eSwatini would break off relations with Taiwan before early September, when Beijing will host a summit of African leaders.

Taiwan has accused China of promising generous aid packages to lure away its allies, charges China has denied.

Writing by Alexander Winning; Editing by James Macharia

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