Taiwan has lost its largest ally in the Pacific after the Solomon Islands confirmed Tuesday that it is switching diplomatic allegiance to China, and observers say other Pacific nations may soon follow.
China welcomed the Solomon Islands into its Pacific family. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying implied Taiwan was the one guilty of practicing dollar diplomacy. "Of course, for those who are used to buying diplomacy with money, they may not understand that some principles cannot be bought, and that trust cannot be bought," Hua told a daily news briefing.
Police maintained a strong presence on the streets of the Solomon Islands' capital Honiara but reported no unrest following the Pacific nation's decision. In Honiara, a group of bystanders, some waving Taiwanese flags, watched as Taipei's embassy lowered its flag for the final time.
The Solomon Islands was the sixth country to switch allegiance to China since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in Taiwan in 2016. 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 has in recent years been expanding its influence in the South Pacific, to the concern of the United States and its main ally in the region, Australia. Taiwan has been losing allies in other parts of the world too. Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, Sao Tome and Principe, Panama and El Salvador have also cut off ties with Taipei in recent years.