Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Taiwan fears China's authoritarian threat in the Pacific after losing two diplomatic allies

Taiwan fears China's authoritarian threat in the Pacific after losing two diplomatic allies

Oct 10 2019  7:36pm
Taiwan has accused China of practicing "authoritarian expansionism" in the Pacific, pointing to reports of plans for Chinese military presence in two Pacific countries that have recently switched diplomatic allegiance from Taipei to Beijing.

Key points:

  • Taiwan's foreign minister says he doesn't want the Pacific to turn into another South China Sea
  • Solomon Islands' Prime Minister is in China for a week-long official visit
  • The United States sees Taiwan as its long-time friend and a reliable partner
Last month, Solomon Islands broke ties with Taiwan after its Government voted to switch its allegiances and Kiribati followed suit just days later.
To shore up support for Taiwan, representatives of the United States, Taiwan and Pacific Island nations held their first Pacific Islands Dialogue in Taipei on Monday, which observers believe was aimed at helping Taiwan retain its remaining allies in the Pacific.
"We have seen reports that China is interested in reopening [a] radar station in Kiribati, and building a naval base in Western Province of Solomon Islands," Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told the forum.
"From the long-term strategic perspective, like-minded friends and partners should really be worried whether the Pacific will remain free and open and whether the key actors follow the rules-based international order."
The latest switch in diplomatic relations by Solomon Islands and Kiribati has left Taiwan with just four allies in the Pacific — Palau, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Nauru — and 15 in total around the world.
Winning over Solomon Islands and Kiribati also strengthens China's influence in the Pacific, where Washington and Canberra have grown increasingly worried about Beijing's increasing clout.
Mr Wu urged countries including the United States to "push back strongly" against China's moves to diminish Taiwan's presence in the Pacific.
"I certainly don't want to see the Pacific turned into another South China Sea, with us one day all sighing that it is too late for us to do anything," Mr Wu said, referring to Chinese moves to build military installations on artificial islands and reefs in the disputed water.
China's Foreign Ministry was not immediately available for comment.

'Taiwan is a force for good in the Pacific'

Diplomats who attended the forum in Taipei included Sandra Oudkirk, US State Department deputy assistant secretary for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands as well as ambassadors from Tuvalu, Nauru and the Marshall Islands.
Ms Oudkirk's visit has been seen by some analysts and diplomats in Taiwan as an effort to shore up support for Taipei.
The South China Morning Post reported Ms Oudkirk called Taiwan a long-time friend of the US and a reliable partner and responsible stakeholder.
"Taiwan is a force for good in the Pacific, and in the world," she said.
"That is why we firmly support Taiwan's relationships with Pacific Island nations."
The United States, which has a fraught relationship with China over trade, defence and technology issues, upholds what is known as the "one-China" policy, which means it officially recognises Beijing and not Taipei, but continues to assist Taipei.
Taipei has come under pressure from Beijing since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016 as Beijing accuses Ms Tsai of pushing for Taiwan's independence, which is a red line for the Chinese Government.
Meanwhile, Taiwan has accused China of trying to meddle in its upcoming presidential election in January as Ms Tsai is seeking re-election — an accusation which China denies.

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