Thu, Aug 22, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Ties upheld by 15 in Solomon Islands

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Then-Solomon Islands prime minister Rick Houenipwela, left, is accompanied by President Tsai Ing-wen and other Taiwanese government officials during an official visit to Taiwan last year.

Photo: CNA

At least 15 members of the Solomon Islands government yesterday issued a statement reaffirming their support for maintaining diplomatic ties with Taiwan, saying that a majority of the nation’s people reject any proposal of switching recognition to China.

Speculation that the Pacific ally might switch recognition to Beijing has been circulating since the nation held elections in April and the newly elected government was required to review its foreign alliances.

Last week, the Solomon Islands sent a delegation to Beijing, a source familiar with the matter said yesterday, but added that the government’s overall evaluation of its foreign ties has not been concluded.

According to the Solomon Times, sixteen members of parliament and other officials said in a statement yesterday that the country “has been enjoying cordial relations with the Republic of China [Taiwan]” for more than 36 years.

“We do so as individual MPs representing our respective constituencies and people,” reads the group’s statement, which lists out the names of 16 lawmakers as well as Minister of National Planning and Development Coordination Rick Houenipwela and the former prime minister.

As of press time last night, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it had confirmed the signatures of 15 officials.

“We understand that [Solomon Islands] Prime Minister [Manasseh] Sogavare continues to cherish the Solomon Islands’ relations with Taiwan,” the group’s statement says. “We know that the majority of our fellow citizens throughout this country would reject any proposal to switch relations from Taiwan to China.”

The group said that it is aware of a “serious debt trap” and examples of compromised religious freedoms, land rights, rule of law and even conservation of cultural heritage that other countries in the Pacific have faced after succumbing to China’s advances.

The review of the Solomon Islands’ relations with Taiwan by the government is part of its policy to reassess its ties with all diplomatic allies, the group added.

The ministry welcomed the statement and thanked the group for expressing firm support of the nations’ relations.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) on Friday last week met with Sogavare at the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu to sign a bilateral visa waiver agreement, the ministry said.

Taiwan continues to work with the ally across various sectors, it said, calling on different segments of the Solomon Islands to join hands with Taiwan in deepening relations.

Meanwhile, former ambassador to the Solomon Islands Roger Luo (羅添宏), who resigned due to personal issues, was replaced yesterday by Ambassador Oliver Liao (廖文哲), previously an envoy at the embassy, the ministry said.

Wu yesterday traveled to Palau — another Pacific ally of Taiwan — to attend the funeral of former Palauan president Thomas Remengesau, who passed away at his residence on Aug. 3 at the age of 89, the ministry said.

Tomorrow, Wu is to pay his respects to Remengesau at his mourning hall before attending a national funeral in Palau’s capitol building on Friday, it added.

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