Wed, Aug 07, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Delegation visit shows strength of Solomon Islands ties

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

President Tsai Ing-wen speaks to the Asian-Pacific Parliamentarians’ Union at the Grand Hotel in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times

The strength of Taiwan’s ties with the Solomon Islands is evidenced by the embassy’s meeting last month with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare — a continuation of regular contact — and the attendance this week of the Pacific ally’s lawmakers in the Asian Pacific Parliamentarians’ Union (APPU) conference in Taipei, a foreign affairs official said yesterday.

Led by Solomon Islands Speaker of Parliament Patteson Oti, the eight-member delegation arrived on Sunday to join the 49th APPU conference at the Grand Hotel from Monday to today, and is to meet with some Taiwanese green energy businesses tomorrow.

The Republic of China in 1983 established formal relations with the Solomon Islands, but speculation about a potential switch of recognition to Beijing has been circulating since the nation’s election in April, when Sogavare told reporters that his newly re-elected administration was to reassess foreign relations.

Given Honiara’s political landscape, Sogavare is required to respond to any oppositional voices, but there are “very few,” reflecting its democracy, the source said on condition of anonymity.

While the delegation is not an administrative agency, its visit to Taiwan must have been approved by Sogavare, a sophisticated politician who would have taken various opinions into account, they said.

Taiwan’s embassy maintains close contact with the Solomon Islands government, with its most recent meeting with Sogavare occurring last month, during which they discussed bilateral ties, the source said.

As part of Honiara’s reassessment, a Solomon Islands task force has visited Fiji, Vanuatu, Tonga and Samoa, and is visiting Papua New Guinea — all allies of Beijing — suggesting that it might visit China soon, they said.

Honiara is expected to form a second task force to visit Taipei, they said, but added that there is no knowing when the reassessment would conclude.

Solomon Islanders on social media have protested the potential diplomatic switch, showing that Taiwan has successfully promoted medical, agricultural, educational and other programs in the nation, the source said.

The government is also trying to invite some of the nation’s leaders to visit to show them how Taiwan carries out aid programs with concrete effort, instead of setting up “debt traps” as China has done across the Pacific, they added.

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