Taiwan believes that the Solomon Islands’ newly elected prime minister will consult all members of his coalition government, including those who are friendly to Taiwan, before making any major decision regarding ties between the two nations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.
The ministry issued the remark in a statement released after the Australian yesterday reported that Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said that his government was considering cutting ties with Taiwan.
“Right now the ‘status quo’ is maintained, but it’s something that we will continue to develop; it is not hard and fast and fixed,” Sogavare told Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corp.
“The principles we follow into diplomatic relations is, of course, we look at other things as well, [like] how do we benefit from the relationship,” Sogavare was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
He was also quoted as saying that he would discuss the matter with his governing coalition partners, “and then we will see the position of the new government at the appropriate time.”
Ministry spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) said that as in previous general elections, no single party won a majority in the Pacific ally’s election on April 3.
That means Sogavare, who became prime minister on Wednesday last week, has to form a coalition government, Lee said.
The ministry believes that Sogavare made the comments on the possibility of switching diplomatic recognition because, as prime minister, he has to “express views shared by some coalition members,” Lee added.
“However, we believe Prime Minister Sogavare, as a seasoned politician, will also consult with other coalition members who are friendly toward Taiwan,” he said.
Ambassador to the Solomon Islands Roger Luo (羅添宏) yesterday told Taiwanese media in a telephone interview that some Solomon Islands Cabinet members have long supported developing closer relations with China, especially during major elections.
However, such pro-China politicians only constitute a small portion of the government, Luo said, adding that most lawmakers and Sogavare still support maintaining ties with Taiwan.
The ministry previously said that it was glad to see Sogavare secure the position of prime minister, saying that having “an old friend of Taiwan” serving in the post would solidify ties with the Pacific ally.
Following the inconclusive election in which no single party won a majority, Sogavare won the backing of 34 of the country’s 50 members of parliament in a controversial run-off, with his opponents boycotting the vote.
This is to be Sogavare’s fourth term as prime minister, following stints in 2000, 2006 and 2014.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) earlier yesterday said that her government was fully aware of the situation in the Solomon Islands.
She confirmed that Beijing has continued to pressure many of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, but said that her administration would do its best to solidify ties with the nation’s 17 allies.
Several media reports have cited a number of senior Solomon Islands politicians — including former prime minister Rick Hou — as saying that they would review their country’s diplomatic relations with Taiwan if elected, raising the possibility of a diplomatic switch from Taipei to Beijing.
Hou is member of Sogavare’s coalition.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Hsu Szu-chien (徐斯儉) on March 21 tried to ease speculation by saying that he and Hou reaffirmed friendly bilateral relations during a meeting earlier that month.
To further solidify ties, the ministry previously said that the two nations had signed a memorandum of understanding in which Taiwan is to offer “strategic loans,” which local media reported would be worth NT$900 million (US$29.1 million), to help the Pacific country build a national stadium that would be used to host the 2023 Pacific Games.
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