De facto embassy

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A de facto embassy is an office or organisation that serves de facto as an embassy in lack of regular/official diplomatic relations among countries (thus paradiplomacy). Diplomatic immunity and extraterritoriality are usually not granted.[citation needed]

Disputed territories[edit]

In many cases, these organisations represent nations which lack full diplomatic recognition or regions with disputed borders. For instance, many countries maintain formal diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China but operate unofficial 'trade missions' or 'representative offices' in Taipei to deal with Taiwan-related commercial and consular issues. Often, these delegations may forward visa applications to their nearest embassy or consulate rather than processing them locally.[citation needed]

France maintains a "French Institute" in Taipei, whose first apparent purpose is "cultural," but which also has consular and economic sections,[1] as does Germany's German Institute Taipei, the United States' American Institute in Taiwan, and the United Kingdom's British Office Taipei.[2] Similarly, Taiwan (ROC) maintains Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Offices or Taipei Representative Offices in other countries, which handle visa applications as well as relations with local authorities.[3]

Prior to the reunification of Germany, West and East Germany were represented by "permanent missions",[4] headed by "permanent representatives", who served as de facto ambassadors.[5] These were established under the terms of the Basic Treaty in 1972.

Following its Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965, Rhodesia maintained overseas missions in Lisbon and Lourenço Marques (now Maputo) until 1975 and an Accredited Diplomatic Representative in Pretoria.[6]

The Tibet Religious Foundation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been called "the de facto embassy of the exiled government in Taiwan" by Taipei Times chief staff reporter Loa lok sin.[7]

Dependent territories[edit]

Some foreign diplomatic missions in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region function independently of their embassies in Beijing, reporting directly to their foreign ministries.[8][9] For example, the United States Consulate General reports to the Department of State with the Consul General as the "Chief of Mission".[10]

Similarly, when Hong Kong was under British administration, diplomatic missions of Commonwealth countries, such as Canada,[11] Australia[12] New Zealand[13] India[14] Malaysia[15] and Singapore[16] were known as Commissions, and functioned independently of each country's High Commission in London. After the transfer of sovereignty to China in 1997, they were renamed Consulates-General.[17] with the last commissioner becoming consul-general.[18]

When Hong Kong and Macau were under British and Portuguese administration, the People's Republic of China was informally represented by a branch of the Xinhua News Agency Nanguang trading company respectively.[19] Since the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong and Macau, the Central People's Government has been formally represented by the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Macau Special Administrative Region

Trade missions[edit]

Under apartheid, South Africa maintained trade missions in neighbouring countries, such as Zimbabwe[20] and Mozambique.[21] Similarly, neighbouring countries, such as Mauritius, maintained trade missions in Johannesburg, the country's commercial capital.[22] Following majority rule in 1994, full diplomatic relations were established, and these became High Commissions, after South Africa rejoined the Commonwealth.

Interests sections[edit]

In some cases, states which have no direct bilateral ties will be represented by an "interests section" housed as part of the embassy of a third country recognised by both states. For example, the United States is nominally represented in Iran by an interests section of the Swiss embassy in Tehran,[23] with the corresponding Iranian section to the US housed as part of recognised Pakistani embassy in Washington, D.C.[24]

Prior to the restoration of diplomatic relations on July 20, 2015, the US was represented by an interests section at the Swiss embassy in Havana, with the corresponding Cuban section to the US housed as part of the Swiss embassy in Washington.[25] Unlike in Iran, where the former United States embassy building in Tehran has remained in disuse since its seizure during the hostage crisis in 1979, the former embassy building in Havana housed the "interests section" in Cuba between 1977 and 2015.

Other previous examples of interests sections include those of Britain and Argentina between 1982 and 1992, during which time there was a British interests section of the Swiss embassy in Buenos Aires, and an Argentine interests section of the Brazilian embassy in London[26] Similarly, Iraq maintained an interest section in the Jordanian embassy in London between 1990 and 2003. Prior to the restoration of diplomatic relations between Indonesia and Portugal, severed following the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975, Portugal established an interests section in the Dutch embassy in Jakarta, while Indonesia established an interests section in the Thai embassy in Lisbon.[27]


Country Mission Status Notes
 Canada  Taiwan Canadian Trade Office* (CTOT), Taipei, Republic of China, established 1986 Foreign relations of the Republic of China
 France  Taiwan French Institute in Taipei Foreign relations of the Republic of China
 Germany  Taiwan German Institute Taipei Foreign relations of the Republic of China
 Hong Kong various nations and intergovernmental organizations Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office Foreign relations of Hong Kong The offices in Europe and Asia have responsibilities for several countries or intergovernmental organizations. Those in the Mainland China and United States similarly have responsibilities across several provinces or states.
 India  Taiwan India-Taipei Association[28] India–Republic of China relations
 Iran  USA Interests Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran* at the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington. Iran – United States relations
 Japan  Taiwan Interchange Association (財団法人交流協会) serves as the representative office. Republic of China – Japan relations
 North Korea  Japan Chongryon, North Korea's de facto embassy in Japan Japan–North Korea relations
 Northern Cyprus  USA TRNC Representative Office to the US* Foreign relations of Northern Cyprus
 Northern Cyprus  UN TRNC Representative Office in New York* Foreign relations of Northern Cyprus
 Northern Cyprus various nations Multiple missions of Northern Cyprus* Foreign relations of Northern Cyprus
 Palestine various nations Palestine general delegation, special delegation or mission* Foreign relations of Palestine
 PRC  Taiwan Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits Cross-Strait relations
 SADR various nations Missions of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic Foreign relations of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
 Taiwan  PRC Straits Exchange Foundation Cross-Strait relations
 Taiwan various nations with diplomatic ties to  PRC Taipei Representative Office* Foreign relations of the Republic of China
 United Kingdom  Taiwan British Office* Foreign relations of the Republic of China
 USA  Iran U.S. Interests Section of the Embassy of Switzerland* in Iran Iran – United States relations Since the Iran hostage crisis of 1979, the United States government has been represented in Iran by the United States Interests Section of the Embassy of Switzerland in Tehran.
 USA  Syria U.S. Interests Section of the Embassy of the Czech Republic* in Syria Syria–United States relations Effective February 6, 2012, the U.S. Embassy in Syria suspended operations and closed for normal consular services.
 USA  Taiwan American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), established 1979, a non-profit private corporation Republic of China – United States relations The AIT was established shortly after the United States government changed its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing on January 1, 1979.
Key:*: Government organization; flag positioned left: country of origin ("sending"); flag positioned right: location

See also[edit]


  1. ^ La France à Taiwan
  2. ^ British Trade & Cultural Office
  3. ^ Visa Requirements for the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan
  4. ^ History of the Berlin Wall
  5. ^ East-West German trade up 8 percent, in Bonn and East Berlin respectively The Christian Science Monitor, September 8, 1982
  6. ^ Collective Responses to Illegal Acts in International Law: United Nations Action in the Question of Southern Rhodesia, Vera Gowlland-Debbas, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. 1990
  7. ^ Loa Iok-sin, Tibetans confirm WikiLeak, Taipei Times, 25 décembre 2010
  8. ^ "Christopher J. Marut Appointed as Director of the Taipei Office of the American Institute in Taiwan" (Press release). American Institute in Taiwan. 2012-05-08. 
  9. ^ Inspection of The Canadian Consulate General Hong Kong
  10. ^ "Chiefs of Mission". U.S. Department of State. 
  11. ^ 2 China Dissidents Granted Asylum, Fly to Vancouver, Los Angeles Times, September 17, 1992
  12. ^ Australian Commission Office Requirements, Sydney Morning Herald, August 18, 1982
  13. ^ NZer's credibility under fire in Hong Kong court, New Zealand Herald, March 27, 2006
  14. ^ Indians in Limbo as 1997 Hand-over Date Draws Nearer, Inter Press Service, February 12, 1996
  15. ^ Officials puzzled by Malaysian decision, New Straits Times, July 3, 1984
  16. ^ Singapore Lure Stirs Crowds In Hong Kong, Chicago Tribune, July 12, 1989
  17. ^ About the Consulate-General
  18. ^ In the swing of things, Embassy Magazine, September 2010
  19. ^
  20. ^ Thousands Rampage Through Harare, Upset Over Machel's Death, Associated Press, 21 October 1986
  21. ^ Youths Attack South African Trade Mission, United Press International, November 5, 1986
  22. ^ Port Louis Journal; Land of Apartheid Befriends an Indian Ocean Isle, New York Times, December 28, 1987
  23. ^ Embassy of Switzerland in Iran - Foreign Interests Section, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (page visited on 4 April 2015).
  24. ^ Interests Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran - Washington D.C
  25. ^ Press Availability With Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, United States Department of State, July 20, 2015
  26. ^ Argentina and Britain Move To Restore Diplomatic Ties, New York Times, September 1, 1989
  27. ^ Indonesia names envoy to Lisbon, Jakarta Post, November 16, 2000
  28. ^ India-Taipei Association