Fri, Sep 20, 2019 - Page 3 News List

MOFA monitoring Tuvalu PM change

SHAKY ALLIANCE?Ambassador to Tuvalu Marc Su voiced confidence in bilateral ties amid concern that Beijing could use it as an opportunity to further isolate Taiwan

By Peng Wan-hsin and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has grasp over the change of prime minister in South Pacific diplomatic ally Tuvalu, President Tsai Ing-wen said at an event in New Taipei City yesterday.

Photo: Chou Hsiang-yun, Taipei Times

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday said it is closely following developments in Tuvalu after the election of a new prime minister, Kausea Natano, sparking concern that Taiwan might face another diplomatic crisis.

Tuvalu is one of the nation’s 16 remaining allies after the Solomon Islands switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing on Monday, ending 36 years of official ties.

Natano yesterday received 10 of 16 votes from the Tuvaluan parliament to replace Enele Sopoaga.

The power change in Tuvalu “could give Beijing an opportunity to further isolate Taiwan,” a Reuters report said yesterday, citing analysts in the region.

The surprise change has lengthened the shadow over Taiwan’s standing in the South Pacific, the report said.

However, Ambassador to Tuvalu Marc Su (蘇仁崇) expressed confidence in Tuvalu, saying that Beijing had little influence in the Pacific nation after an unsuccessful attempt to court it just over a decade ago.

“You can feel they are trying to attract our diplomatic allies in every possible way,” Su told Reuters.

“This country is OK — there won’t be any effect,” Su said, adding that Taiwan had good relationships in Tuvalu from “grassroots to top level.”

Taiwan is to contribute US$7.06 million to Tuvalu’s budget for this year, according to budget documents, the report said.

Diplomatic relations between Taiwan and Tuvalu are stable, and Natano has maintained “close contact” with the Republic of China embassy, the ministry said.

Since the Solomon Islands’ diplomatic switch, several US officials have also expressed their support for Taiwan.

“We have repeatedly expressed our concern over China’s actions to bully Taiwan through economic coercion, squeezing Taiwan’s international space, and poaching diplomatic partners,” US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell told a US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on Wednesday.

“These actions undermine the cross-strait status quo, which has created peace and benefited both sides of the [Taiwan] Strait for decades,” he said.

Committee Chairman James Risch, ranking member Bob Menendez and other committee members also expressed their support at the hearing.

The ministry yesterday thanked the US lawmakers, saying Taiwan would continue to be a responsible member of the international community.

In other developments, US President Donald Trump announced his appointment of US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien as his new national security advisor.

“I have worked long & hard with Robert,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

“He will do a great job!” Trump added.

O’Brien visited Taiwan in May 2016 and his position is “very friendly” toward Taiwan, the ministry said.

Taiwan and the US have maintained “close and smooth communication,” and continue to deepen their cooperation in the areas of politics, economy and security, it said.

The ministry hopes to, on the basis of the current “friendly and stable” Taiwan-US relations, to continue to work with the US to strengthen their partnership, it added.

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