TAIPEI — Taiwan could establish a military base in Somaliland as part of a second-phase agreement between the two countries, according to a Somaliland news site.
On July 1, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) announced that the governments of Taiwan and the self-declared state of Somaliland had “agreed that the establishment of representative offices will best serve the interests of one another.” Negotiations began in late 2019, and a treaty was signed in February of this year, when Somaliland’s Foreign Minister Yasin Hagi Mohamoud visited Taipei and met with President Tsai Ing Ing-wen (蔡英文).
The Somaliland Chronicle reports that the Taiwanese government has already established a presence in the self-declared republic and is “closely collaborating a number of ministries on capacity building and other technical areas.” The Taiwan Root Medical Peace Corps has also reportedly sent medical personnel to Somaliland for a third time January and on Sunday (June 28) delivered the largest shipment of medical supplies to battle the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to the self-declared state.
It is uncertain why the development of the relationship between the two countries has been highly secretive, but officials stressed to the newspaper the “significance of a Somaliland — Taiwan relationship.” Despite being a major investor in Africa with its debt-trap diplomacy, China does not have any relationship with Somaliland, thus representing a chance for Taiwan to counter its attempts to isolate the country.
The Somaliland Chronicle also reported that Somaliland President Musa Bihi Abdi has already appointed a representative to Taiwan. For his part, Wu said that Taiwan’s Representative Office in Somaliland would be much like those seen in other non-allied countries.
Although Wu did not officially state Taiwan’s formal recognition of Somaliland’s independence from Somalia, he said that since declaring independence in 1991, it has had three presidential elections and has been acknowledged by many countries to be “a democratic nation in Africa.” In a tweet posted on Wednesday (July 1), Wu announced the signing of the agreement and described Somaliland as “this independent country on the Horn of Africa.”
That same day, Somaliland’s Foreign Ministry Yasin Haji Mohamoud on Twitter wrote: “The Government of Somaliland identified issues of mutual concern, including building-bridges of diplomacy; opening missions to boost political and socioeconomic links between the Republic of Somaliland and the Republic of China [Taiwan].”
The French-language news site HCH24 on Thursday (July 2) wrote that the new bilateral relations between Taiwan and Somaliland have angered China because it is disrupting its campaign to isolate Taiwan. The news site suggested that China is also suspicious of strengthening ties between Somaliland and Taiwan, as it would give its rival a foothold in a country that neighbors its sole overseas military base in Djibouti.
HCH24 then cited government officials in the capital city of Hargeisa as saying that the “second phase” of the treaty would permit the Taiwan military to conduct exercises in Somaliland. In addition, the news site cited the sources as saying that Taiwan could “even work there to establish a military base in Berbera,” Somaliland’s key port city.
In 2017, Somaliland had signed an agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to build a military airbase in Berbera, as well as provide military training and equipment to the Somaliland police and army. However, news broke in September of 2019 that the UAE was pulling out of the deal.
In January of this year, the Russian news site Telegraf cited U.S. State Department Officials as saying that Russia was stepping up its plans to build a naval base in Berbera. However, the Russian government has not confirmed this report and there have been no new developments with the Russian plans for the base since the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.