Solomon Islands Minister of Foreign Affairs Jeremiah Manele yesterday began a five-day visit to Taiwan amid speculation about a possible switch in political allegiance by Honiara to Beijing.
Manele and his delegation are to meet President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), and attend a banquet hosted by Wu, according to a press statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday.
Manele is also to visit the Taiwan External Trade Development Council, and tour private companies and research institutions engaged in clean energy, agricultural machinery and fine agriculture, the statement said.
Photo: EPA-EFE / David Chang
The delegation is seeking a more comprehensive appreciation of Taiwan’s agricultural technology and related developments to expand bilateral cooperation in new fields, the ministry said.
While this will be Manele’s first visit to Taiwan as the Solomon Islands’ top diplomat since he assumed the post in May, he has visited Taiwan several times in other official capacities, it said.
Manele’s visit is “significant to the Taiwan-Solomon Islands friendship” and comes in the wake of Solomon Islands Parliament Speaker Patteson Oti attending the annual gathering of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentarians’ Union in Taipei early last month and Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s meeting with Wu in Tuvalu on the sidelines of the Pacific Islands Forum in the middle of last month, where they signed a visa waiver agreement, the ministry said.
“Taiwan and the Solomon Islands have worked closely together since establishing diplomatic relations in 1983,” the ministry said, citing Honaira’s support for Taiwan in the international arena such as at the UN General Assembly, the WHO, the International Civil Aviation Organization and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“Both countries will continue to deepen friendly cooperative relations upholding the principle of mutual assistance for the benefit of both sides,” it said.
Manele’s visit comes as Taipei-Honaira relations are reportedly being tested by Beijing’s efforts to further isolate Taiwan in the international community.
Following a general election in April, the Solomon Islands’ new government declared a review of its relations with Taiwan and China and a task force formed for the purpose has toured Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa — Pacific nations allied to Beijing — and is to submit its assessment on the issue this week, foreign media have reported.
A Reuters report quoted Solomon Islands lawmaker Peter Shanel Agovaka as saying that Honaira intends to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan and align itself with Beijing.
Over the past few days, the ministry has reassured the nation over bilateral relations with Honaira, citing cooperation projects and interactions between high-level officials.
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