Paraguay leader calls for Taiwan to return to UN

Paraguayan President Santiago Pena addresses the United Nations General Assembly (Leonardo Munoz)
Paraguayan President Santiago Pena addresses the United Nations General Assembly (Leonardo Munoz)

The leader of Paraguay, one of a dwindling number of countries that recognize Taiwan, called Tuesday for its readmission to the United Nations in recognition of its democratic credentials.

Addressing the General Assembly, President Santiago Pena said that the world body should reflect "participatory, democratic and equitable practices" in line with the United Nations Charter.

"In this light, Paraguay expresses its support for the Republic of China -- Taiwan -- to be an integral part of the United Nations," Pena said.

His remarks come as China steps up pressure to exclude Taiwan entirely from international bodies.

Taiwan -- where the mainland's nationalists fled after losing the civil war in 1949 -- for decades represented China at the United Nations including with the veto-wielding seat on the powerful Security Council.

But by 1971, Beijing managed to gather enough support that the General Assembly expelled Taiwan in favor of the People's Republic of China.

The United States, which opposed the move, soon afterward also recognized Beijing and broke off relations with Taiwan, which has since transformed into a vibrant democracy.

The United States still maintains unofficial relations with Taiwan and sells it weapons to defend against an invasion by Beijing, which some US officials fear is becoming more likely.

China views Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

Only 12 countries as well as the Vatican recognize Taiwan, with Beijing putting concerted pressure on countries linked to Taipei.

Taiwan's Vice President William Lai, who is the frontrunner in the presidential election next year, flew to Paraguay last month to attend Pena's inauguration.

He transited through the United States, drawing protests from Beijing.