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Pacific News Minute: Small Pacific States Trade Diplomatic Recognition for Bribes

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This week, the tiny South Pacific island state of Nauru marks the 50th anniversary of its independence from Australia. Dignitaries have gathered to celebrate the occasion from around the Pacific, and from Abkhazia and South Ossetia. And if you’re wondering what they’re doing there, we have an explanation from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia both broke away from Georgia with the support of Russia and enjoy diplomatic recognition from just four members of the United Nations – Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru.

Which is why the foreign ministers of both mini states flew halfway around the world to be on hand for the 50th anniversary festivities. Tuvalu and Vanuatu used to be on that select short list, but switched their allegiances back to Georgia.

Credit Tatters ? / Flickr

Rouben Azizian, Director of the Center for Defense and Security Studies at New Zealand’s Massey University, described the competition to RNZ Pacific, “They are counting on the financial vulnerability of the small islands...where they can basically offer some incentive” and added, “bribes is another word for that.”

A case in point: This week, the Island Sun newspaper reported that the government of Taiwan paid as much as 2.1 million dollars a year into a slush fund controlled by the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands.

That’s in addition to the 3.7 million dollars Taiwan provides openly to a rural development fund in the Solomons. The newspaper said documents from 2015 show that a meeting of government Members of Parliament decided to divide the “Prime Minister’s Discretionary Fund” evenly, but just among themselves. Opposition and independent MPs were not included.

Six Pacific island nations are among the 19 U.N. members which still recognize Taiwan, including the Solomon Islands and Nauru.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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