TAIPEI, Taiwan — The breakaway territory of Somaliland opened a representative office in Taipei on Wednesday in a move that has already drawn Beijing’s ire.

The territory’s representative to Taipei, Mohamed Hagi, said trade, security and development corporation were key aspects of “this very special relationship.“

The two are “members of the same community of democracies founded by our shared political and economic freedoms, as well as international values,” Hagi said.

Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said both faced external pressures but are “proud of our sovereignty and ready to defend it.”

Taiwan has just 15 formal diplomatic allies and is considered by China a part of its territory, while Somaliland is recognized internationally as part of Somalia, from which it broke away in 1991 as the country broke apart and descended into clan-based civil war.

Somaliland has seen little of the violence and extremist attacks that plague the rest of Somalia.

While neither Taiwan or Somaliland are recognized by the United Nations, they both maintain their own independent governments, currencies and security systems.

Moves to formalize ties got underway after Wu and Somaliland’s foreign minister, Yasin Hagi Mohamoud, signed a bilateral agreement in Taipei on Feb. 26. Taiwan has been providing scholarships to students from the region of 3.9 million people and has offered cooperation in areas such as fisheries, agriculture, energy, mining, public health and education.

Upon the announcement in July of the agreement to exchange offices, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian accused Taiwan of “undermining Somali sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“China firmly opposes Taiwan and Somaliland establishing an official agency or having any form of official exchanges,” Zhao said.

China has frequently sought to scupper such arrangements in the past and has been using its its massive economic resources to win over Taiwan’s remaining allies.

While Somalia and Somaliland recently restarted their dialogue, China has refused all direct contacts with Taiwan’s government since the election of independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016. Tsai was re-elected this year to a second four-year term.

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