The strategically located, self-declared African nation of Somaliland touted potential oil, gas and tourism resources for investment as it opened a de facto embassy in Taiwan on Wednesday, a relationship that has angered China and Somalia.
Taiwan signed the agreement on establishing representative offices with Somaliland in February, but did not made it public until July. Situated on the Horn of Africa, Somaliland borders Djibouti, where China maintains its first ever overseas military base.
Both China, which claims Taiwan as its own, and Somalia have expressed their opposition to Taiwan and Somaliland’s forging of ties. Somaliland declared independence in 1991 but is recognised internationally only as an autonomous region of Somalia.
Somaliland’s chief representative in Taiwan Mohamed Omar Hagi Mohamoud said at the opening of the office in Taipei that they were an independent state establishing ties with Taiwan based on the common values of freedom and democracy.
Somaliland wants investment in areas like mining, oil exploration, fishing and eco-tourism for its “beautiful beaches”, Mohamoud said.
“In the mining sector Somaliland has huge potential for foreign investment, including hydrocarbon deposits, oil and gas, as well as coal,” he added.
Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said they look forward to “exploring common interests and mutual benefits in areas such as fishery, energy, agriculture and others.”
“We both face external pressures. But both are proud of our sovereignty and ready to defend it,” Wu added.
Taiwan has formal diplomatic ties with just 15 countries because of pressure from China, which says the island has no right to claim to be a country. In Africa, only tiny eSwatini maintains full relations with Taiwan.
Mohamoud told Reuters that loans or money offers from Taiwan were not part of the deal to open the offices, and dismissed criticism from China.
“Other countries cannot dictate to Somaliland what Somaliland wants to do and who Somaliland makes relations with. Yes of course we want to make relations with China, but that doesn’t mean they can dictate to us.” (Reporting by Ben Blanchard)