CASTRIES, St. Lucia - This tiny Caribbean island may have thought it was no big deal when it severed its 10-year relations with China and restored ties yesterday with rival Taiwan.


China, which built a stadium and was finishing a psychiatric hospital here and considers Taiwan a renegade province, called the move a "brutal interference in China's internal affairs." In short order, one of the world's smallest nations has now made an enemy out of one of the largest.

Both Taiwan and China, which for more than 20 years have battled for diplomatic allies, brought out their big guns to curry favor with St. Lucia, a verdant, mountainous 240-square-mile island that is home to 168,000 people.

China, a vast nation of 1.3 billion people, sent its foreign minister for a two-day visit in September. Taiwan dispatched Foreign Minister James Huang in late April. On Tuesday, he and St. Lucian Foreign Minister Rufus Bousquet signed an agreement establishing diplomatic relations.

"We have been very careful about making this decision, and now that we have taken it, we do not expect the Chinese will love us any more for it," Bousquet said.

Bousquet had indicated that any decision would be based on which suitor could offer a better deal to St. Lucia, where about 20 percent of the population lives in poverty.

As he put it in April: "Support those who give you the most."

Nationalistic pride in St. Lucia, which won independence from Britain in 1979, also played into the equation.

"St. Lucia did not win its sovereignty from one power to be now dictated to by another," the weekly St. Lucia Mirror said in an editorial.