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Burkina Faso minister visits China after breaking with Taiwan

Map showing the 18 countries that have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, after Burkina Faso cut links

Burkina Faso's foreign minister will begin a visit to China on Saturday, just days after cutting diplomatic ties with Taiwan in the first such visit in 25 years, diplomatic sources told AFP.

"Minister (Alpha) Barry flew to China after taking part in Thursday's cabinet meeting and is expected to arrive in Beijing on Saturday, after stopping in Abidjan and Paris," a diplomatic source told AFP on Friday.

It is the first such visit since the west African country suspended co-operation with Beijing in 1993 before switching recognition to Taiwan a year later.

But on Thursday, the Sahel state announced its decision to sever ties with Taiwan following a string of similar moves by African states since 2000. Swaziland remains the only African country to have relations with Taiwan.

In a statement, Barry said "changes in the world, the current socio-economic challenges facing our country and our region call on us to reconsider our position".

China considers Taiwan to be a renegade province.

The two have for years engaged in a diplomatic tug-of-war in developing countries, with economic support and other aid often used as bargaining chips for recognition.

China has notched up a string of successes south of the Sahara, where it has gained a high profile in infrastructure projects, especially in transport.

The move to dump the island, which is left with only 18 diplomatic allies around the world, sparked the resignation of Taiwan's foreign minister, Joseph Wu.

A landlocked country of 18 million people on the southern rim of the Sahara, Burkina Faso is one of the poorest nations of the world.

It ranked 185th out of 188 states in the UN's Human Development Index for 2016.