Pacific News Minute: Diplomatic Switches From Taipei to Beijing Continues In Pacific

Oct 1, 2019

Last month, two Pacific island nations switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. The decisions squeezed Taiwan’s dwindling diplomatic space, but they’ve also had repercussions in Kiribati and The Solomon Islands.

Last Friday, the opposition in Kiribati organized a march, where protesters waved the Taiwanese flag and, according to RNZ Pacific, chanted, “We love Taiwan, we hate China, we want peace.” Opposition leader Titabu Tabane said people were upset that they had not been consulted and he echoed the vow of former President Sir Ieremia Tabai to switch back to Taiwan if the opposition wins next year’s election.

In the Solomon Islands, three ministers have been purged from the cabinet of Prime Minister Manassah Sogavare for their opposition to the Taiwan decision. They include deputy prime minister Jahn Maneniaru  and planning minister Rick Hou, who was himself prime minister until elections earlier this year.

Hou told RNZ Pacific that he was fired because he publicly accused Sogavare of rushing the switch to meet China’s deadline of October first, thus breaking a promise of thorough consultations. But in a statement, Prime Minister Sogavare said that Hou was sacked because he was colluding with the opposition, and offered members of parliament 125,000 dollar bribes to abandon the government and support a motion of no confidence.

In a statement marking Tuvalu’s independence day, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for closer co-operation with Taiwan. Tuvalu, Palau, and the Marshall Islands were quick to re-affirm their relations with Taipei after the defections of Kiribati and the Solomons, and last week, Nauru followed suit.