Tai­wan cuts off ties with Solomon Is­lands over China

Taipei says Bei­jing med­dling with votes

The Korea Times - - WORLD -

TAIPEI (Reuters) — Tai­wan ac­cused China on Mon­day of try­ing to in­flu­ence its pres­i­den­tial and leg­isla­tive elec­tions af­ter the Solomon Is­lands cut off ties with Taipei.

The Solomon Is­lands was the sixth coun­try to switch al­le­giance to China since Pres­i­dent Tsai Ing­wen took of­fice in Tai­wan in 2016. Its de­ci­sion on Mon­day dealt her a new blow in her strug­gle to se­cure re-elec­tion in Jan­uary amid crit­i­cism of her han­dling of Bei­jing and ris­ing ten­sion with China.

Self-ruled Tai­wan now has for­mal re­la­tions with only 16 coun­tries, many of them small, less de­vel­oped na­tions in Cen­tral Amer­ica and the Pa­cific, in­clud­ing Belize and Nauru.

China claims Tai­wan as its ter­ri­tory and says it has no right to for­mal ties with any na­tion.

Speak­ing to re­porters in Taipei, Tsai said Tai­wan would not bow to Chi­nese pres­sure, de­scrib­ing the Solomon Is­lands’ de­ci­sion as new ev­i­dence that Bei­jing is try­ing to med­dle in the Jan­uary elec­tions.

“Over the past few years, China has con­tin­u­ally used fi­nan­cial and po­lit­i­cal pres­sure to sup­press Tai­wan’s in­ter­na­tional space,” Tsai said, call­ing the Chi­nese move “a brazen chal­lenge and detri­ment to the in­ter­na­tional or­der.”

“I want to em­pha­size that Tai­wan will not en­gage in dol­lar di­plo­macy with China in or­der to sat­isfy un­rea­son­able de­mands,” she said.

China’s for­eign min­istry said in a state­ment it “highly com­mends” the de­ci­sion to sever diplo­matic ties with Tai­wan and up­hold the “One China” prin­ci­ple, adding it was part of an “ir­re­sistible trend.”

“We stand ready to work with the Solomon Is­lands to open new broad prospects for our bi­lat­eral re­la­tions,” spokes­woman Hua Chun­y­ing said in a state­ment late on Mon­day.

Tai­wan’s for­eign min­is­ter, Joseph Wu, said Taipei would im­me­di­ately close its em­bassy in the Solomon Is­lands and re­call all its diplo­mats.

“The Chi­nese govern­ment at­tacked Tai­wan pur­posely be­fore our pres­i­den­tial and leg­isla­tive elec­tions, ob­vi­ously aim­ing to med­dle with the vot­ing. The govern­ment strongly con­demns this and urges peo­ple to hold on to its sovereignt­y and the value of free­dom and democ­racy,” said Wu, whose res­ig­na­tion was re­jected by Tsai. “Tai­wan has never bowed to pres­sure from one sin­gle set­back, and it won’t be de­feated by this blow,” Wu said, urg­ing sup­port from al­lies in the re­gion to de­fend Tai­wan’s free­dom and democ­racy.

China has been try­ing to se­cure al­lies from Tai­wan, and Burk­ina Faso, the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, Sao Tome and Principe, Panama and El Sal­vador had al­ready cut off ties with Taipei in re­cent years.

Bei­jing has stepped up pres­sure to squeeze the is­land, which have in­cluded reg­u­lar Chi­nese bomber pa­trols around Tai­wan, since Tsai took of­fice. China sus­pects Tsai of push­ing for Tai­wan’s for­mal in­de­pen­dence, a red line for Bei­jing.

Tsai said the Chi­nese move could be an “at­tempt to di­vert at­ten­tion” from months of protests in Chi­nese-ruled Hong Kong, and that China was forc­ing Tai­wan to ac­cept a for­mula sim­i­lar to Hong Kong’s “one coun­try, two sys­tems” ar­range­ment, which guar­an­tees cer­tain free­doms.

The Solomon Is­lands’ de­ci­sion fol­lowed a months-long re­view of the pros and cons of a switch to Bei­jing, which was of­fer­ing $8.5 mil­lion in de­vel­op­ment funds to re­place sup­port from Tai­wan.

EPA-Yon­hap

Tai­wan’s Pres­i­dent Tsai Ing-wen, cen­ter, flanked by David Lee, left, Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral and For­eign Min­istry Joseph Wu, speaks dur­ing a press con­fer­ence to an­nounce that Tai­wan will shut its em­bassy in the Solomon Is­lands af­ter the Pa­cific is­land coun­try has cut diplo­matic ties with Taipei, in Taipei, Tai­wan, Mon­day.

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