Solomon Islands sixth country to cut ties with Taiwan since 2016 election of Tsai Ing-wen, as China raises pressure.
Taiwan and Kiribati severed ties on Friday after the tiny Pacific nation decided to switch diplomatic recognition to China, the second of the island’s allies to defect this week.
“Kiribati today officially notified us that it was cutting diplomatic ties with our country,” Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told reporters at a hastily organised news conference.
“Today we are also announcing that we are dropping ties with Kiribati,” he added.
Kiribati’s decision is another coup for the government in Beijing as it prepares to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1.
Wu said Beijing “lured Kiribati to change its diplomatic ties” with promises of investment and aid.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang speaking at a press briefing on Friday said his administration “highly appreciat[ed] the decision to resume diplomatic relations with China.”
When asked if China had promised investment to Kiribati if it cut ties with Taipei, Geng said people in Taiwan had used the same words regarding the Solomon Islands to “create confusion and distort the facts.”
“Those who are accustomed to buying diplomatic allies with money may not understand that principles cannot be bought and trust cannot be bought,” Geng added.
On Monday, Taiwan announced it was cutting ties with another Pacific nation – the Solomon Islands – after learning its cabinet had voted in favour of moving diplomatic recognition to Beijing.
Wu also called Kiribati decision “deeply regrettable”, adding that all bilateral cooperation and aid projects would be immediately halted. Taiwanese diplomats would be withdrawn from Kiribati, whose envoys would be expected to do the same.
Kiribati, a state of 115,000, is the seventh country to cut ties with Taiwan in three years and leaves the island with just 15 diplomatic partners.
China claims Taiwan as its own and says the democratic island has no right to formal ties with any country. It has threatened to use force to take back the island, which was founded by the defeated nationalists after the civil war.
Most countries today recognise Beijing, and China has been ratcheting up diplomatic and economic pressure to woo the remaining countries allied with Taiwan since Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016.
On Thursday, the South Pacific state of Tuvalu also picked a new prime minister, shunning its former leader Enele Sopoaga, who had been a strong supporter of Taipei while in office.
The latest diplomatic manoeuvre by China particularly in the South Pacific region has unnerved Western allies, particularly the United States.
Earlier this week, US Vice President Mike Pence declined to meet Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, while Washington said it was reassessing its assistance to the South Pacific country in the wake of the decision.
US Republican Senator Marco Rubio has also sounded the alarm, saying the US should not stay silent.
He wrote on social media that Washington and the international community “must push back against Beijing’s bullying, and efforts to isolate Taiwan.”