Taiwan Insists Trade Office Approved by Ministry

Following Prime Minister Hun Sen’s vow to block plans for a Taiwanese trade office in Phnom Penh on Friday, the Taiwan External Trade Development Council on Saturday responded by insisting the office had already been given the green light by Cambodia’s Commerce Ministry, according to Taiwanese media.

At a Council of Ministers meeting on Friday, Mr. Hun Sen said he would not allow Taiwan to set up a trade office owing to his strict respect for Beijing’s One-China policy, which treats Taiwan as a Chinese province. The prime minister was reacting to a report by the Taipei Times, reprinted in Cambodia by the Rasmei Kampuchea newspaper, and demanded a correction.

On Sunday, however, the Taipei Times reported that Taiwan’s Development Council put out a statement on Saturday reacting to Mr. Hun Sen’s comments and stating that it had indeed secured a certificate of incorporation for a trade office in Phnom Penh from the Commerce Ministry.

“In a press statement, [the council] said it has obtained a ‘certificate of incorporation’ to set up an office in Phnom Penh which will be registered as the ‘Branch of Taiwan Trade Center Inc,’” the Taipei Times reported Sunday.

The council did not reply to a request for comment.

At the Commerce Ministry, spokesman Ken Rotha declined to comment on whether the ministry had issued the Taiwan trade office a certificate of incorporation. Commerce Ministry Secretary of State Mao Thora said he was unaware of any efforts to open such an office.

“This is a political issue,” he said. “We recognize the One-China policy.”

Cambodian Chamber of Commerce director-general Nguon Meng Tech said he did not know if the Commerce Ministry had approved the Taiwan trade office but was still in support of it on purely business grounds.

“I [would] love to have one open,” he said. “I’m talking business only. Politics I have no idea.”

Larry Kao, vice chairman of the Taiwanese Commercial Association of Cambodia, said the conflicting media reports about the trade office’s fate had left him confused. He said an office in Phnom Penh would help boost Taiwanese investment in Cambodia but added that canceling plans to open one would not devastate investment.

“It doesn’t affect that much the situation,” he said. “If [it does] not open, it stays the status quo.”

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