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THE SOLOMON ISLANDS, TAIWAN

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Sir,

This past Monday, the cabinet of a small group of 100 islands, comprising the Solomon Islands, in the remote Pacific Ocean, voted to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Mainland China. A move which leaves Taiwan increasingly isolated diplomatically. The response from the Taiwanese Foreign Minister, Joseph Wu, was swift, announcing that Taiwan would (and has) immediately closed its embassy in the Pacific Island nation.

At a press conference in Taipei, the Taiwanese President, Tsai Ing-wen, accused Mainland China of ‘financial and politically pressure’ and ‘dollar diplomacy’ to obtain diplomatic recognition by offering the Solomon Islands US$8.5 million in ‘development funds’, in an attempt to destabilise the Legislature in Taiwan, with presidential and legislative elections scheduled for January 2020. The response from the acting US Defence Secretary, Patrick Shanahan, on behalf of the United States Government, was equally swift, asserting that the Indo-Pacific region was a ‘priority theater’ where the United States would support ‘partner nations’ against attempts by any one nation to exercise control and called Mainland China’s action ‘a toolkit for coercion’.

Strategy

Self-ruled Taiwan broke away from Mainland China in 1949, after the communists emerged victorious from a bloody civil war. Mainland China has always vowed to make Taiwan, part of Mainland China, by force if necessary. At the moment, Mainland China would appear to be adopting a different and more subtle strategy. Since the Taiwanese President, Tsai Ing-wen, took office in 2016, a total of six countries have switched allegiance from Taipei to Beijing, including the Dominican Republic and El Salvador. The loss of the Solomon Islands leaves Taiwan formally recognised by only 16 countries, primarily small, under-developed countries in Central America and the Pacific, but which also include the Kingdom of Eswatini.

 

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