Taiwan Says It Did Provide Aid to Contras

Associated Press

Taiwan, the nation identified as “Country No. 3” during congressional hearings into the Iran- contra affair, came forward Friday with the announcement that it had helped donate $2 million to the Nicaraguan rebels.

The announcement by Taiwan’s foreign ministry said that the government solicited the money from private businessmen to help the contras and to maintain “good cooperation ties” with the United States.

The disclosure came after Gaston J. Sigur Jr., assistant secretary of state for East Asian affairs, on Thursday told the Senate-House committee investigating the Iran-contra affair that he had helped arrange aid from an Asian country.


Throughout the hearings, foreign countries involved in the contra aid program have been referred to by number.

Sigur did not name Taiwan in his testimony but Taiwan stepped forward.

State Department officials, who said they were surprised by the announcement, and the Taiwanese delegation in Washington--formally known as the Coordination Council for North American Affairs--made efforts to distance themselves from the transaction.

The State Department officials, speaking on condition that they not be identified by name, noted that Sigur’s involvement occurred in 1985, when he was working for the National Security Council.

A top official in the department handling relations with Taiwan said he had no knowledge of any donation from Taiwanese to the contras.

The foreign ministry statement said that the Executive Yuan, Taiwan’s Cabinet, initially rejected an American request in 1985 to fund the contras.


Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government was one of the few that recognized the Taiwan-based Republic of China, and Taiwan apparently was reluctant to do anything official that might undermine the relationship.

However, the statement said that it eventually solicited $2 million from local businessmen for the contras because Taiwan wished to “cherish good cooperation ties” with the United States.

Taiwan suspended diplomatic relations with Nicaragua on Dec. 7, 1985, after Managua recognized the communist government in Beijing.

The United States made clear that the money for the contras would be used for “humanitarian aid,” such as food, clothing and medicine, and “the donations were purely made from civil groups,” the statement said.