The Solomon Islands switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in September 2019. It was the seventh country to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in 2016 — the result of a concerted effort by Beijing to lure away Taipei’s remaining allies and squeeze Taiwan’s presence on the international stage.
China’s motivation is clear: If not a single country in the world formally recognizes Taiwan as a sovereign state, Beijing would be able to argue that it is legally within its rights to annex it.
The Solomon Islands possesses significant value to Beijing because of its strategic location. China’s long-term goal is to diminish and, if possible, erase the US’ military and diplomatic dominance in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Solomons’ proximity to Australia is another factor. Canberra is a key regional US ally and military partner, home to a number of important military and intelligence-gathering installations, and is a vital docking and resupply location for the US Navy. Australia also possesses rich deposits of iron ore, which are vital to China’s steel industry. Some Australian security analysts believe Beijing plans to build a military base on the Solomon Islands now that it has its government in its pocket.
The amount of money that Beijing showered on the Solomons is unknown, but Taiwan had pledged US$8.5 million in funds for its government, which has a population of just 600,000, for the fiscal year covering 2019 and last year. The Pacific nation’s main source of income is derived from timber exports.
In October 2019, the New York Times reported that the provincial government of the island of Tulagi in the Solomon archipelago signed away exclusive development rights for the entire island and its surroundings to China Sam Enterprise Group, which has close ties to the Chinese Communist Party. The Times report said that Tulagi’s residents were shocked to learn of the deal, having been kept completely in the dark by their government.
The renewable 75-year lease included provisions for a fishery base, an operations center and “the building or enhancement of the airport.” It is not hard to envision the gradual conversion of civilian facilities into a military base; Tulagi’s deep-water harbor would be ideal for China’s navy. However, in a rare victory against Chinese expansion, the deal was ruled to be unconstitutional.
Daniel Suidani, the premier of Malaita, the Solomons’ largest province, is one of the Pacific nation’s most vocal critics of Beijing. He has said that he would refuse any Chinese investment in his province, bringing him into direct conflict with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.
Suidani arrived in Taipei on May 26 to receive medical treatment for a suspected brain tumor and is on the road to recovery. He said earlier this week that he was denied state funding for medical treatment in his own country due to his anti-China stance. The Solomon Islands government has said that Suidani’s trip to Taiwan was “unauthorized.”
Suidani’s actions have exposed simmering tensions on the archipelago over the central government switching allegiance to China. Many residents, particularly in Malaita, have voiced concerns over Beijing’s treatment of Christians, as well as its anti-democratic political system, and are worried that the government could lose control of the relationship with Beijing.
By providing emergency medical assistance to Suidani, Taiwan has shown compassion and has also achieved a small diplomatic coup that could mark the beginning of another diplomatic reversal.
The small Baltic nation of Lithuania last week announced that it would accept a Taiwanese representative office in its capital, Vilnius, and that it would establish its own trade office in Taiwan by the end of the year. This was more than a welcome announcement to Taiwan and goes far beyond the normal establishment of trade relations. Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Landsbergis summed it up succinctly, boldly saying: “Freedom-loving people should look out for each other.” With these words, Landsbergis was purposefully going beyond normal diplomacy; he was also presenting a moral challenge and reminder to other democratic nations. A look
Having deceived the world about its nuclear capabilities while preparing for an arms race, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is now using its increasing nuclear forces for virtual nuclear coercion. This new threat will continue until the United States, Japan, and Taiwan can restore the CCP’s sense of fear. This dynamic is a familiar one for Taiwan. As the CCP’s People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) capabilities have grown, its inhibitions about conducting larger and more frequent coercive military demonstrations have shrunk. The PLA now more openly practices for the destruction of Taiwan’s democracy and the murder of its citizens. In the nuclear realm,
The Tokyo Olympics will perhaps be remembered as one of the oddest Games in the event’s long and checkered history. Held amid a global pandemic, spectators are banned from most venues, leaving athletes to play out their feats of sporting brilliance in eerie silence. Meanwhile, furious Tokyo residents wave placards outside some venues, calling for the Games’ cancelation. Adding to the incongruity of it all, the entire Russian team is absent, banned due to a doping scandal. That the Tokyo Olympics went ahead at all has been extremely contentious in Japan. Critics fear a mass outbreak of the highly contagious Delta
On a peaceful day in the open Pacific Ocean to the east of Taiwan, a US carrier and five accompanying warships were slowly sailing to guard the western Pacific. Another carrier battle group had just returned to its home port in San Diego. Suddenly, alarms went off as many intercontinental ballistic missiles were launched from the interior of China, flying toward Taiwan. Numerous Chinese warships, carriers, fighter jets, bombers and submarines were fast converging on the US ships. Not too long after, missiles, bombs and torpedoes were fired at the US carrier. The surprise to Americans was the number of