The Solomon Islands, one of Taiwan’s remaining allies in the Pacific, is sending a delegation this week to study Chinese aid in neighboring countries as it considers a diplomatic switch to Beijing, lawmaker John Moffat Fugui said on Monday.
The Solomons has recognized Taiwan since 1983 and would be a prized chip should it swap diplomatic ties as China seeks to expand its influence and presence in the Pacific.
A task force set up by Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to review relations with Taiwan would visit the island nations of Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Papua New Guinea, which all have formal ties with China.
The tour would include Taipei and Beijing, Fugui, who is chairman of the task force and is to lead the delegation, told reporters.
“We will use their countries as case studies to see the kind of development relations they have, the kind of assistance they get, the conditionalities or lack of conditionalities they might have, the kind of governance,” Fugui said by telephone from the Solomon Islands capital, Honiara.
“We will do due diligence,” he said, adding that the task force report was expected by the end of August and could recommend a middle course.
“It’s not either or, it’s also both,” he said, without elaborating on such a scenario.
The Solomon Islands is among 17 nations to recognize Taiwan.
Although the relationship with Taiwan comes with generous aid payments, the Solomons send two-thirds of its exports to China and is weighing the merits of a change.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) yesterday said that all bilateral projects are running “very smoothly” and communications channels with Honiara are also “very smooth.”
“We have shown our sincerity to continue bilateral projects to the new government,” Lee said. “We continue to demonstrate our will to deepen diplomatic ties.”
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