Taiwan yesterday severed official ties with the Solomon Islands as the South Pacific nation decided to switch diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.
The Taipei government also condemned China’s attempts to diminish Taiwan’s international presence and eliminate Taiwanese sovereignty.
“It is absolutely evident that China, through this case, deliberately seeks to influence Taiwan’s upcoming presidential and legislative elections,” Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) told a news conference at 6:30pm.
“The government strongly condemns China’s attempts to suppress Taiwan and calls on the people of Taiwan to continue to uphold our national sovereignty, champion the principles of freedom and democracy, reach out to the international community and serve as a force for good in the world,” Wu said.
The Solomon Islands’ Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement voted 27-0, with six abstentions, to establish diplomatic ties with China.
The decision was later approved by the Cabinet of Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticized a report recently submitted by a Solomon Islands cross-party task force to the Sogavare government that recommended the nation sever its ties with Taiwan and switch diplomatic allegiance to China.
Sogavare and his Cabinet made the diplomatic move “based solely on a highly biased, so-called ‘Bipartisan Task Force’ report, which is full of fabrications and blatant misinformation,” the ministry said.
“Taiwan believes that the majority of Solomon Islanders will find the decision unacceptable since it completely lacks credibility,” it added.
At a separate news conference held at 7:30pm, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) expressed regret over the Solomon Islands’ decision and condemned China for “repeatedly using money and political pressure to suppress the Taiwanese people’s international space.”
Tsai said Taiwan would not engage in dollar diplomacy to compete with Beijing, nor yield to China’s bullying aimed at “demoralizing Taiwanese in a bid to force Taiwan to accept its ‘one country, two system’ formula.”
While Wu has tendered his resignation, the Presidential Office quoted Tsai as saying that his resignation is not an issue as all staff at the foreign ministry had put in their best efforts until the last minute and that the severing of ties was due to China’s suppression of Taiwan.
The Solomon Islands is the sixth country to cut ties with Taiwan since Tsai came to office in 2016 — following Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, Sao Tome and Principe, Panama and El Salvador.
The latest development leaves Taiwan with only 16 diplomatic allies.
A government source familiar with the matter said that Beijing invested significant resources to establish relations with the Solomon Islands, not just to pressure Taiwan, but as part of its efforts to extend China’s strategic reach into the “second island chain.”
Pro-Beijing voices have gained momentum across the political divide in the Solomons Island, because China has apparently played both sides of local politics, the source said.
China has expended a tremendous amount of resources to gain a diplomatic foothold in the Solomon Islands due to the archipelago’s potential for air bases and deepwater harbors, which were utilized by the US and Japan during World War II, the source said.
Taiwan could not expect the US or Australia to be of help in shoring up its relations with the Solomon Islands, because Washington has no embassy in that nation, Canberra has an ongoing dispute with the Solomon Islands that has badly damaged bilateral relations and there is a perception in the Solomons that Taiwan likely favored Canberra, the source said.
Additional reporting by Su Yung-yao
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