Second Pacific nation shifts toward China this week

Published 21.09.2019 00:51

The Pacific island nation of Kiribati severed ties with Taiwan on Friday, the second such loss for diplomatically isolated Taiwan in less than a week. The cut in ties comes four days after the Solomon Islands, once Taiwan's largest ally in the South Pacific, severed ties with Taiwan in favor of China.

Beijing "highly appreciates the decision to resume diplomatic relations with China," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a press briefing Friday. Kiribati will presumably recognize China, which has persuaded seven countries to switch allegiance since 2016, when Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took office. China claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan and wants the island to reunite with the mainland. The two split in 1949 during a civil war.

At a hastily arranged press conference in Taipei, Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said Beijing had "lured Kiribati to change its diplomatic ties" with promises of investment and aid.

Taiwan now has formal relations with only 15 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 U.S. and its main ally in the region, Australia. Taiwan has been losing allies in other parts of the world as well. Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, Sao Tome and Principe, Panama and El Salvador have also cut off ties with Taipei in recent years.

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