Name of Taiwan’s office in Somaliland significant: Taipei MOFA

Getting the Taiwan Somaliland office in Hargeisa Ready

THT: The newly opened Taiwan Representative Office in Somaliland is the only overseas office using the term “Taiwan,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Tuesday, describing it as a significant achievement diplomatically.

Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Somaliland formally opened Monday in Hargeisa after Taiwan and Somaliland signed an agreement in February to set up offices in each other’s territory.

Photos posted by the MOFA on its Facebook page late Monday showed that the formal name of the office is Taiwan Representative Office in the Republic of Somaliland.

It is currently the only MOFA overseas office using the name “Taiwan” and this development is “very significant,” MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou said at a regular press briefing.

The agreement to exchange offices with Somaliland was also signed in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, meaning that foreign service officials from the two sides are entitled to all privileges and immunities provided by the international treaty, she said.

Taiwan, whose formal name is the Republic of China (ROC), only has 15 diplomatic allies around the world and has to maintain representative offices under different names to serve as its de facto embassies or consulates in other countries.

In countries with which Taiwan has diplomatic ties, Taiwan has embassies, but in countries with which Taiwan does not have formal relations, its offices are usually called the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office or Taipei Trade Office.

Overseas offices that had “Republic of China” or “Taiwan” in their names were asked by their host countries to be renamed starting in 2017 under pressure from Beijing.

The designations “Republic of China” or “Taiwan” were replaced by “Taipei,” a name with fewer implications for sovereignty.

The last MOFA overseas office which had “Taiwan” in its name was the Trade Mission of Taiwan to the Kingdom of Bahrain. However, the office was renamed the Taipei Trade Office in the Kingdom of Bahrain in July 2017.

The last overseas office that still had “Republic of China” in its name, the Trade Mission of the Republic of China in Fiji, was also asked by the host country to rename it to the Taipei Trade Office in Fiji, which happened in July 2019.

Despite MOFA’s characterization of the development as significant, Somaliland is not recognized as a country by the international community, and it is unclear if this move will have any effect on the names of other Taiwan offices around the globe.

Meanwhile, the MOFA would not object if China also established an office in Somaliland.

“The Somaliland side has told us that its interactions with China will not affect Taiwan-Somaliland relations. Why? Because Taiwan and Somaliland share the same values such as democracy, freedom and human rights, which have precedence over money,” Ou said.

She was responding to a report in the Financial Times on July 1 that quoted Somaliland’s deputy foreign minister Liban Yusuf Osman as saying the self-declared East African state also welcomed China to set up an office there if it wanted to.

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