China, Somaliland Clash Over Relations with Taiwan

China cannot dictate Somaliland’s foreign relations, its top diplomat said Friday during his trip to Taiwan in a show of solidarity between the two self-ruled democracies.

Ties between the breakaway African region and Taiwan have grown closer in recent years, swapping de facto embassies in 2020 and finding common ground as thriving democracies that remain mostly unrecognised by the wider world.

The high-level delegation visiting Taipei this week sparked anger from China, which accused Taiwan of “trying to seek separatism”.

Beijing views Taiwan as its territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if needed.

But Somaliland’s foreign minister Essa Kayd Mohamoud reiterated Friday during a press conference that his region — which declared independence from Somalia in 1991 — could be friends with whomever they please.

“Let me tell you one thing: Somaliland is a sovereign country,” he said.

“We were born free, we will stay free, and we will own our business the way we want it. China cannot dictate. Other countries cannot dictate.”

Kayd — who took part in an extensive Q&A session with reporters — added that Somaliland was open to all nations, as long as they “respect our integrity as a sovereign country”.

“I want to tell you that we are open to everybody… who come and want to do business with us without any strings or conditions.”

His delegation, which included the finance minister, also touted the investment possibilities that Taipei could have in Somaliland — particularly in the oil and gas exploration sector.

After breaking away in 1991, Somaliland has thrived as a comparative beacon of stability while Somalia has been wracked by decades of political violence.

Their declaration of independence remains unrecognised by most of the world — similar isolation that Taiwan experiences as China has worked to poach away allies of the island.

Somalia had blasted the swapping of offices between Taiwan and Somaliland as a “reckless attempt” to infringe on its sovereignty, while Beijing has accused Taipei of separatism and “acting with desperation”.

China’s sabre-rattling towards Taiwan has stepped up under President Xi Jinping — including a massive spike in warplanes incursions into the island’s air defence zone, which more than doubled in 2021 compared to 2020.

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