Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) yesterday called for increased cooperation with the US and other nations in the Pacific to keep the region free and open against China’s “authoritarian expansionism.”
Wu was speaking at the first Pacific Islands Dialogue cohosted by Taiwan and the US.
The event at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs in Taipei was cohosted by Wu and US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands Sandra Oudkirk, who is also the department’s senior official for APEC.
Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times
China’s authoritarian expansionism poses a serious challenge to the region’s improvement and threatens to replace Taiwan’s model of humanitarian aid with “corruption, deception and debt traps,” Wu said.
The Solomon Islands and Kiribati last month switched diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China due to pressure from Beijing, he said.
Reports show China is interested in reopening a radar station in Kiribati and building a naval base in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands, he added.
Pacific nations should be concerned whether the region can remain free and open, Wu said, urging other democracies to “push back strongly” against China’s efforts to diminish Taiwan’s presence.
“I certainly do not want to see the Pacific turned into another South China Sea, with us one day sighing that it is too late to do anything,” he said.
Taiwan, the US and like-minded partners in the Pacific share similar interests in ensuring that the region remains free, open and stable, he said, adding that he hoped the forum would facilitate new forms of cooperation to achieve such goals.
Having been a partner in the Pacific since World War II, the US is committed to the prosperity and well-being of the people living in the region, Oudkirk said.
“This commitment to the Pacific starts at the very top, with [US] President [Donald] Trump,” she said.
The US government has committed more than US$100 million of new assistance to the Pacific, which includes support for coral reef conservation, natural disaster preparedness and capacity building to combat illegal fishing, she said.
The US’ vision for the Indo-Pacific region is one that includes the rule of law, prosperity and security for all, Oudkirk said.
“We want to explore how we can join Taiwan in advancing this vision for an Indo-Pacific that is free, open and thriving,” she added.
Taiwan is a reliable partner, responsible stakeholder and “a force for good in the Pacific and the world,” she said, adding that the US “firmly supports Taiwan’s relationships with Pacific island nations.”
The US and Taiwan share a strong desire for a free and open Indo-Pacific, as well as an interest in supporting Pacific island nations in meeting their development goals, American Institute in Taiwan Director Brent Christensen said.
“This dialogue is intended to identify areas where the United States, Taiwan and like-minded partners can cooperate to meet the needs of our friends in the Pacific,” he said.
Oudkirk’s delegation includes Office of Taiwan Coordination Deputy Director Daniel Delk and USAID Deputy Mission Director for the Pacific and Mongolia Sean Callahan. It is the first time that senior State Department officials have visited Taiwan to hold talks with Tawanese authorities about regional affairs.
Marshallese Ambassador Neijon Rema Edwards, Nauruan Ambassador Jarden Kephas and Tuvaluan Ambassador Limasene Teatu were among those attending yesterday’s event. However, Palau’s ambassador did not attend.
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