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China and Sao Tome restore diplomatic ties in snub to Taiwan

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Beijing announced Monday that it has re-established diplomatic ties with Sao Tome and Principe, a small West African nation that had just ended diplomatic relations with Taiwan last week.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Sao Tome counterpart, Urbino Botelho, signed the agreement in front of a handful of invited reporters at a state guest house in western Beijing.

The move is a victory for Beijing, which considers the self-governing island of Taiwan a part of China's territory and has been outraged by suggestions by President-elect Donald Trump that he could rethink US policy that accepts this.

Since Chinese nationalist leaders fled to Taiwan in 1949 after a brutal civil war with Mao Zedong's Communists, China has seen the region as a breakaway province that will eventually return.

Most of the world does not formally recognize Taiwan as a condition of maintaining relations with China.

China's Foreign Ministry in a statement issued on Sunday said it had lodged a protest with the United States over the Taiwan content of the act and expressed its strong opposition.

Taiwan, claimed by China as its own, has accused Beijing of taking advantage of Sao Tome's financial woes to push the move and that Taipei will not engage in "dollar diplomacy".

"Sao Tome is a small, island nation, with very friendly people". The impoverished former Portuguese colony relies heavily on foreign aid.

"The restoration of diplomatic relations gives China a new friend in the global community, while Sao Tome and Principe will get all-round support and assistance from a permanent member of the UN Security Council and the world's largest developing country", Wang added.

"We need to acknowledge that China is playing an increasingly important role internationally", Mr Botelho said, adding "we want to make good on our past mistakes".

"We hope that interested Chinese companies can join in this discussion".

Following the break, Taipei only has official diplomatic relations with 21 countries.

Cross-strait tensions have been further exacerbated by a highly unusual call from President Tsai to congratulate USA president-elect Donald Trump, who has questioned Washington's policy towards the island, including its decision to not formally recognise its government.

Beijing suspended contact with the main Taiwan liaison body in June, blaming Tsai's refusal to endorse the concept of a single Chinese nation.

Wang said China eyes cooperation with the island country within the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, and the Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking countries.

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