China, Solomon Islands establish diplomatic ties

22 September, 2019 12:00 AM printer

BEIJING: China and the Solomon Islands established diplomatic relations Saturday, days after the Pacific island nation severed ties with Taiwan, reports AFP.

“We look forward to the quick development of bilateral relations between China and the Solomons,” Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said at a ceremony in Beijing alongside his Solomons counterpart Jeremiah Manele. “We welcome this decision by the Solomon Islands and support the country to move forward in the development path it has chosen for itself.”

Solomon’s foreign minister said his country’s decision to switch diplomatic recognition to China—its largest trading partner—was based on “national needs.”

“The development challenges for our country are huge. We need a broader partnership with countries that also includes China,” he said.

The switch is a major coup for Beijing just weeks before it celebrates the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. And it leaves Taiwan more isolated than ever with just 15 states left that recognise it. Taiwan has been a de facto sovereign nation since the end of a civil war in 1949, but China still views the island as its territory and has vowed to seize it—by force if necessary.

Over the decades, as China’s economic and military power have grown, most countries, including the United States and most Western nations, switched recognition to Beijing. Only a handful still recognise Taiwan, largely in Latin America and the Pacific.

Taipei has accused Beijing of using “dollar diplomacy” to buy off its few remaining allies. Kiribati, another tiny Pacific island nation announced it has switched diplomatic recognition to China on Friday. Beijing praised Kiribati for cutting ties with Taiwan, saying it “highly appreciates the decision to resume diplomatic relations with China”.

Seven states have now made the switch during Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s tenure, during which China has also ramped up military drills and squeezed the island economically.

The small African nation of Sao Tome and Principe was the first to fall in late 2016, followed by Burkina Faso and then three Latin American states: Panama, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic.

Then on Monday came the Solomons, which had been deciding for months whether to make the move following the April election of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.

Taiwan heads to the polls in January, with Tsai seeking a second term and relations with China dominating the campaign. She has described the vote as a “fight for freedom and democracy”, setting herself up as someone who can defend Taiwan from an increasingly assertive Beijing.

Her main challenger, Han Kuo-yu, from the opposition Kuomintang party, favours rebooting the relationship with the island’s giant neighbour.