Fri, Sep 20, 2019 - Page 1 News List

US reassessing aid to Solomon Islands

Reuters, WASHINGTON

Former ambassador to the Solomon Islands Oliver Liao gives a short speech ahead of lowering the national flag at Taiwan’s embassy in Honiara, Solomon Islands, on Tuesday.

Photo: Reuters / Youths Online Campaign — For Change Solomon Islands

The US is reassessing its assistance to the Solomon Islands after the South Pacific nation cut it ties with Taiwan in favor of China earlier this week, a senior official at the US Agency for International Development (USAID) said on Wednesday.

The Solomon Islands was the sixth country to switch allegiance to China since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in 2016.

The move left Taipei with formal relations with only 16 countries, many of them small, less-developed nations in Central America and the Pacific.

Asked at a budget hearing of the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs whether any funds would be directed to the Solomon Islands in fiscal 2020, Gloria Steele, acting assistant administrator of USAID’s Asia bureau, said: “We are reassessing our assistance to the Solomon Islands at this point.”

Steele did not elaborate and USAID did not immediately respond to a request for details.

On Tuesday, another senior US official said that US Vice President Mike Pence had declined a request from Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to meet to discuss development partnerships after it cut ties with Taiwan.

Sogavare had in July asked Pence for a meeting, which was to have taken place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York City next week, or afterward in Washington.

“The decision by the Solomon Islands to change its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China has consequences. They’re hurting a historically strong relationship by doing this,” the senior US official said.

While working to counter China’s expanding global influence, Washington has criticized countries for switching diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

USAID supports programs in the Solomon Islands for disaster risk reduction and to counter the effects of climate change via assistance covering 12 Pacific Island countries, a US Department of State fact sheet from last year showed.

The US Coast Guard and military also train security officials in the Solomon Islands.

The US provided US$50,000 to assist with a dengue fever outbreak there in 2013 and US$250,000 to help with Cyclone Ita flood recovery in 2014, the department said.

Beijing on Tuesday said that the Solomon Islands would now have unprecedented development opportunities after cutting ties with Taiwan.

The Solomon Islands’ decision followed a months-long review of the pros and cons of a switch to Beijing, which was offering US$8.5 million in development funds to replace support from Taiwan.

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