De facto embassy

De facto embassy

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.


  • Disputed territories 1
  • Dependent territories 2
  • Trade missions 3
  • Interests sections 4
  • List 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7

Disputed territories

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.

France maintains a "French Institute" in Taipei, whose first apparent purpose is "cultural," but which also has consular and economic sections,[1] as does the United Kingdom's British Trade and Cultural Office.[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

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]

Trade missions

Under apartheid, South Africa maintained trade missions in neighbouring countries, such as Zimbabwe[11] and Mozambique.[12] Similarly, neighbouring countries, such as Mauritius, maintained trade missions in Johannesburg, the country's commercial capital.[13] Following majority rule in 1994, full diplomatic relations were established, and these became High Commissions, after South Africa rejoined the Commonwealth.

Interests sections

In some cases, nations 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. For instance, the United States of America is nominally represented by interests sections at the Swiss embassies in both Iran and Cuba, with the corresponding Cuban and Iranian sections to the US housed as part of recognised Swiss[14] or Pakistani[15] diplomatic missions respectively.

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[16] 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.[17]


Country Mission Status Notes
 Canada  Taiwan Canadian Trade Office* (CTOT), Taipei, Republic of China, established 1986 Foreign relations of the Republic of China
 Cuba  USA Cuban Interests Section* of the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington, D.C. Cuba – United States relations
 France  Taiwan French Institute in Taipei Foreign relations of the Republic of China
 India  Taiwan India-Taipei Association[18] 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 General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, North Korea's de facto embassy in Japan Japan–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 Sino-Pacific 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-straights relations
 Taiwan various nations with diplomatic ties to  PRC Taipei Representative Office* Foreign relations of the Republic of China
 United Kingdom  Taiwan British Trade and Cultural Office* Foreign relations of the Republic of China
 USA  Cuba United States Interests Section of the Embassy of Switzerland* in Havana, Cuba (USINT Havana) Cuba – United States relations
 USA  Iran US 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 US 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


  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).  
  9. ^ Inspection of The Canadian Consulate General Hong Kong
  10. ^ "Chiefs of Mission".  
  11. ^ Thousands Rampage Through Harare, Upset Over Machel's Death, Associated Press, 21 October 1986
  12. ^ Youths Attack South African Trade Mission, United Press International, November 5, 1986
  13. ^ Port Louis Journal; Land of Apartheid Befriends an Indian Ocean Isle, New York Times, December 28, 1987
  14. ^ Cuban Interests Section in USA
  15. ^ Interests Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran - Washington D.C
  16. ^ Argentina and Britain Move To Restore Diplomatic Ties, New York Times, September 1, 1989
  17. ^ Indonesia names envoy to Lisbon, Jakarta Post, November 16, 2000
  18. ^ India-Taipei Association