Taiwan: Solomon Islands to Consider Cutting Diplomatic Ties Following Chinese Pressure
One among 17 countries recognising Taiwan at present, the Solomon Islands might soon decide to switch its allegiance to the People’s Republic of China, most likely influenced by the PRC’s efforts to persuade low-income, aid-dependent countries to give up diplomatic relations with Taiwan in exchange for grant money. The announcement was made by the islands’ Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele after a private meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is believed to oppose the decision in light of Australia’s struggle against Chinese hegemony in the Pacific region.
The article below was published by The Guardian
The Solomon Islands, one of the few remaining countries to have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, will make a decision about whether to transfer its allegiance to China within 100 days, the Guardian has learned.
The timeframe for the decision was set out by the Solomon Islands’ foreign minister Jeremiah Manele during a bilateral meeting with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison on Monday, but the sensitive discussion was not meant to be made public.
Ahead of Morrison’s visit to the Pacific nation earlier this week, there was speculation about whether he would push Solomon Islands leaders to maintain its relationship with Taiwan, due to the battle for influence in the Pacific region between Australia and China.
The Solomon Islands is one of six Pacific nations, and 17 countries worldwide that recognise Taiwan, precluding them from having diplomatic relations with China.
A government official told the Guardian that Morrison discussed the matter with Manele in their meeting in Honiara earlier this week, at which point the minister said the decision would be made in the next 100 days, meaning a decision would be made by mid-September.
In recent years China has stepped up the pressure on these six nations to change allegiance, offering large amounts of aid and grant money to its allies in the region, a powerful incentive to low-income, aid-dependent countries to give up diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
After meeting with the Solomon Islands’ prime minister Manasseh Sogavare on Monday, Morrison would not confirm whether the leaders discussed the Taiwan-China question but said Australia would not put any pressure on Solomon Islands over the issue.
“Decisions on those issues are entirely the province of the government of Solomon Islands,” he said. “They are an independent sovereign country who will make decisions in their national interests.”
Manele later said: “It is a sovereign decision, a matter for the Solomon Islands government to look at. On that note, the government is making a comprehensive assessment of the issue so that government, the caucus and the cabinet, is well informed on the matter.”
Australia has been seeking to counter China’s growing influence in the Pacific region, which is part of the motivation for Morrison’s “Pacific step-up” policy, which has seen Australia put the region at the heart of its foreign affairs program, and has seen it receive 35% of Australia’s aid budget.
Photo courtesy of ç¸½çµ±åºœ @Flickr