Somaliland opened a representative office in Taiwan Wednesday as the unrecognised but de facto sovereign territories deepen a relationship that has sparked angry rebukes from both China and Somalia.
Taiwan and Somaliland have grown closer in recent years, finding common ground in their peculiar and isolated international status.
Both are thriving self-run democracies that remain mostly unrecognised by the wider world.
“The bilateral accord between Somaliland and Taiwan is based on common values of freedom and democracy,” Somaliland representative Mohamed Hagi said at a ceremony in Taipei.
Beijing views Taiwan as its own territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if needed. Only 15 countries diplomatically recognise Taiwan over Beijing, although many nations maintain embassy equivalent trade offices in Taipei.
Somaliland, meanwhile, declared independence from Somalia during the 1991 civil war and has thrived as a comparative beacon of stability. While some nations maintain informal ties with Hargeisa, Somaliland is not diplomatically recognised by any other nation.
Last month Taiwan opened an office in Somaliland.
Somalia described the move as a “reckless attempt” to infringe on its sovereignty, while Beijing accused Taipei of separatism and acting with “desperation”.
Hagi pushed back at that criticism on Wednesday.
“From Somaliland’s perspective we are independent,” he told reporters.
“We are happy to make relations with Taiwan and other countries, to build economic relations. There is not any threat to China.”
Taiwan has been engaged in a diplomatic tug-of-war with Beijing for decades in which each side tries to woo the other’s allies with financial and other incentives.
Since the election of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, Beijing has poached seven allies as part of a wider campaign to isolate Taipei.
Beijing loathes Tsai because she regards Taiwan as “already independent” and not part of one China.