TAIPEI - Taiwan will help its handful of remaining diplomatic allies buy COVID-19 vaccines but on the condition that Taiwanese money is not used to obtain Chinese vaccines, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said on Wednesday.
Chinese-claimed Taiwan has formal ties with only 15 countries, mostly poor and developing states in Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific, and Beijing has stepped up efforts to coax them away from Taipei.
Taiwan said last week it was helping its sole diplomatic ally in South America, Paraguay, buy COVID-19 vaccines, after protests in the country over the Paraguayan government's handling of the health crisis.
Wu told parliament they will help their allies buy the vaccines they need.
"But one of the conditions is that Chinese vaccines cannot be bought. Or, if you buy Chinese vaccines, then you cannot use our Taiwanese money," he added.
While Taiwan has provided masks and other equipment to other countries to control the pandemic, it only began its vaccine program this week, with domestically developed shots not likely to roll out until the middle of the year at the earliest.
China however has already begun offering its vaccines to mostly developing countries.
On Monday, Paraguay's Foreign Ministry said the government had been approached by people "whose legitimacy or links with the government of the People's Republic of China has not been proven" about vaccines.
It said these unnamed people had suggested the precondition for getting the vaccines would be to ditch Taiwan, and denounced the "distressing humanitarian scenario" that anyone should try and use the pandemic for political or economic gains.
Wu said he was confident in Taiwan's ties with Paraguay, who he said "abhorred" China.
"The Paraguayan government knows that there is China's shadow, Chinese funds and Chinese channels behind the turmoil there, and they abhor China," he said.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Beijing views Taiwan's democratically elected government as illegitimate, and considers the island merely a Chinese province with no right to state-to-state ties.