Sat, Sep 07, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Solomons switch would risk ‘debt trap’: minister

Reuters and AFP

Taiwan yesterday warned the Solomon Islands that switching diplomatic ties to China has left other Pacific nations in a “debt trap.”

“China’s expansion in the Pacific has made many countries to fall into the trap of debt,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said. “The flashy infrastructure that China promised has caused serious damage to the local ecosystem and infringed their sovereignty.”

The Solomons are among only 17 nations to recognize Taiwan, but Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare vowed to review the relationship after he was elected in April.

Solomon Islands government frontbencher Peter Shanel Agovaka, who led a recent ministerial delegation to Beijing to discuss a switch, told a parliamentary committee this week that his preference was to recognize China.

“We cannot sit for the next 40 years with our friends Taiwan, it is time that we make new friends,” he said, adding that links with China would help boost the Pacific nation’s economy.

Beijing is offering to bankroll a development fund to replace an annual US$8.5 million fund backed by Taiwan, he said.

A switch, which still needs to be formalized, would be a prize for China in its campaign to secure allies from Taiwan.

It would also deal a fresh blow to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who is seeking re-election in January next year amid criticism over her handling of Beijing.

Five diplomatic allies have switched ties to Beijing since she came to office in 2016.

The South Pacific has been a diplomatic stronghold for Taiwan, where formal ties with six of the 16 island nations make up more than one-third of its total alliances.

The Solomons have recognized Taiwan since 1983 and is the largest of the Taiwan-aligned Pacific countries, with access to the airfields and deep-water ports dating back to World War II.

Taiwan said it believed ties with the Solomons were stable.

“Representatives from the civil society mostly support maintaining the official relations with Taiwan and are doubtful toward the so-called ‘switching of ties,’” Ou said. “We believe the Solomons government and people are alerted by China’s usual deceptive tricks, overbearing behaviors and untrustworthiness in the international society.”

The Solomon Islands yesterday said that no decision had yet been made on switching the nation’s diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China.

The Solomon Islands’ foreign affairs department said that no decision had been made and the issue would not be finalized until the Cabinet had reviewed a task force report.

“As far as can be determined, the Office of Prime Minister has not announced when it is likely to make a decision on whether or not the government agrees to switch diplomatic ties to China or remain with Taiwan,” the department said in a statement issued to media in Taiwan yesterday.

The Solomons parliament’s foreign relations committee is accepting submissions on the Taiwan-China issue until the end of this month and has an Oct. 31 deadline to report to the legislature.

This story has been viewed 1913 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top