China could be the big winner as Solomon Islands considers ditching Taiwan

07-Sep-2019 Intellasia | ABC | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Solomon Islands should sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan and align itself with China, according to a senior parliamentarian representing the South Pacific archipelago.

The switch, which is still being reviewed, would be a win for Beijing as it tries to peel away allies from Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province.

Only 17 countries now recognise Taiwan, which includes the Vatican City and a string of small Pacific, Caribbean, and Latin American states.

Solomons MP Peter Shanel Agovaka told a parliamentary committee that after four decades of independence and a long-term alliance with Taiwan, it was time to make a change.

“We cannot sit for the next 40 years with our friends Taiwan. It is time that we make new friends it’s time that we should move on with our life,” Agovaka said, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by Reuters.

“Our new relationship will deal with a One China policy; a One China policy that recognises only Beijing as the official government administration,” he said.

Agovaka is a senior minister and leader of a government team convened recently to speak directly with Beijing.

However, he is not a part of the government task force in charge of reporting on the issue of whether the nation should formally decide to switch to Beijing.

The task force is dominated by MPs who support a diplomatic change, two political sources with direct knowledge of the issue told Reuters.

Move could see Taiwan lose major Pacific ally

China and Taiwan have fought a tug-of-war for diplomatic recognition in the South Pacific for decades, with some island nations switching allegiances for financial gain.

The Solomons the largest of the Pacific’s Taiwan-aligned states has recognised Taiwan since 1983.

The South Pacific has been a diplomatic stronghold for Taiwan, with the region making up a third of its total alliances.

But its alliances have dissipated in recent years, with El Salvador, Burkina Faso, and the Dominican Republic all switching over to China last year.

Taiwan said it is watching developments in the Solomons.

“Relationship with Solomon Islands currently is stable, but we are closely monitoring the situation and development,” Joanne Ou, a spokeswoman for Taiwan’s foreign ministry, said.

Commenting during a regular daily news conference in Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China was willing to have relations with all countries on the basis of the “one China” principle.

China to bankroll development fund to sweeten transition

The Solomon Islands government has been assessing its diplomatic recognition of Taiwan since new prime minister Manasseh Sogavare took control after a general election in April.

He has begun looking for ways to improve the country’s economic prospects, which currently relies on timber exports to generate income.

China is offering to bankroll a development fund for the Solomons to help with a transition away from Taiwan, which currently provides an annual $12.5 million contribution to the island nation.

But 16 Solomons MPs have cited potential “compromised freedoms” as a reason against the switch in an open letter last month, while an observer at the task force hearings told Reuters there would be push-back against a switch.

Presently it remains unclear if there are options to block the government’s mooted move.

“The government is trying to make a relationship with China now, but to formalise it we need to wait for the report,” the observer said.

The Lowy Institute said in a report last month that Canberra and Washington are concerned about the Solomons switching recognition to Beijing.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-05/china-to-win-big-as-solomons-eyes-new-alliance-with-beijing/11483566

 


Category: Taiwan

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