TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan's diplomatic ties with Burkina Faso, one of its few remaining allies, should not be affected by a military coup there as its new leader is familiar with the Taiwan issue, the island's foreign ministry said on Friday.
Burkina Faso is one of the three remaining countries in Africa – along with Swaziland & Sao Tome & Principe – that have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, with most countries recognising China instead.
China regards Taiwan as a renegade province to be recovered by force if necessary.
China & Taiwan have engaged in an unofficial diplomatic truce since signing a series of landmark trade & economic pacts after the China-friendly Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008.
However, Taiwan is gearing up for a presidential election in January & the frontrunner is from the opposition independence-leaning party which China loathes.
Ahead of the vote, the relationship between Taiwan & China is being closely watched for any sign of hostility from China.
China has yet to establish diplomatic relations with Gambia after it severed ties with Taiwan in 2013, though Beijing has been courting Sao Tome.
Taiwan has lost allies before, following political changes or unrest, with some countries switching ties more than once, including Lesotho, Liberia & Niger.
"We are closely watching the situation," said Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Eleanor Wang. "We hope the domestic situation can be restored. We believe our diplomatic ties won't be affected."
Wang said that General Gilbert Diendere, the former spy chief who was named head of the military junta, is familiar with Taiwan as he has been part of delegations that had previously visited Taipei with Burkina Faso leaders.
"He is familiar with the bilateral ties & with Taiwan's situation," Wang said.
Heavily armed troops crushed protests in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou after Diendere seized power in a military coup on Thursday, derailing a democratic transition that had inspired many in Africa.
(Reporting by J.R. Wu; Editing by Ben Blanchard, Robert Birsel)