TAIPEI -- Taiwan's new foreign minister said Monday the island would work to strengthen ties with its allies rather than try to lure countries away from China, signalling a major shift in diplomatic strategy.
"Taiwan will no longer push to increase the number of countries that establish full diplomatic ties with us," Francisco Ou, who took office last month along with new President Ma Ying-jeou, said in a press conference.
"We will try our best to enhance the existing ties with our friends and maintain friendships."
Only 23 nations formally recognize self-ruled Taiwan over China, from which it split in 1949 after a civil war.
Taipei lost its UN seat to Beijing in 1971, and both sides have often used generous financial packages to influence governments -- especially in Africa, Latin America and the Pacific -- to ensure loyalty or persuade them to switch recognition.
"The new government has a new thinking in developing its diplomatic relations, echoing President Ma's advocacy for a ceasefire in the cash diplomatic battle with China," Ou said.
In an exclusive interview with Agence France-Presse before he took office on May 20, Ma called for a diplomatic truce, saying the ongoing, costly tussle would lead nowhere and that "chequebook diplomacy" was hurting both sides financially.
Ma's landslide victory in Taiwan's presidential polls in March over Frank Hsieh, the candidate for the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, has been the trigger for the rapprochement between Taipei and Beijing.
Ma, of the Kuomintang, has taken a much more conciliatory approach with China than his predecessor Chen Shui-bian, whose pro-independence rhetoric angered China's communist leadership.
The former DPP government was mired in a scandal over the alleged embezzlement of 30 million US dollars earmarked for Papua New Guinea, which currently recognizes Beijing.
Critics said the scandal was the result of the rampant cash diplomatic battle across the Taiwan Strait.