China accuses US of ‘slander’ as diplomatic spats surround Taiwan election

US statement on Taiwan’s increasing diplomatic isolation after Nauru’s withdrawal of recognition draws fire

Nauru is one of the world's smallest countries and lies about 4,000km (2,500 miles) northeast of Sydney [File: Jason Oxenham/AP]

Beijing has expressed anger at the United States after it decried Nauru’s decision to ditch Taiwan and switch its allegiance to Beijing.

Tiny Nauru, located in the South Pacific, broke ties with Taipei after independence-leaning candidate Lai Ching-te, reviled by Beijing, won Saturday’s Taiwanese presidential election. On Tuesday, a US official suggested that the move was a mistake.

“While the government of Nauru’s action is a sovereign decision, it is nonetheless a disappointing one,” said Laura Rosenberger, chair of the Virginia-based American Institute in Taiwan (AIT). “The PRC often makes promises in exchange for diplomatic relations that ultimately remain unfulfilled.”

Beijing, which claims self-governed Taiwan as part of its territory, immediately hit back. Washington “is doing its utmost to smear and slander China’s diplomatic efforts, and putting in a word for Taiwan to expand its space on the international stage”, said Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mao Ning in a news conference.

“The United States is blatantly making irresponsible remarks about a decision made independently by a sovereign state,” she said.

“This seriously violates the one China principle … seriously interferes in China’s internal affairs, and seriously violates basic norms of international relations,” she added.

“China is strongly dissatisfied and firmly opposes this.”

Diplomatic split

Earlier, the South Pacific nation of Nauru announced on Monday it was severing formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan to recognise China, according to a government post on social media.

President David Adeang announced the decision in a national address posted to an official Facebook page, explaining “the Nauru government’s decision to recognise the People’s Republic of China”.

The Nauru government said “in the best interests” of the country and its people, it was seeking full resumption of diplomatic relations with China.

It added that it would “sever diplomatic relations” with Taiwan immediately, and “no longer develop any official relations or official exchanges” with it.

“This change is in no way intended to affect our existing warm relationships with other countries,” the Nauru government statement said.

“Nauru remains a sovereign and independent nation and wants to maintain friendly relations with other countries.”

Following the switch, Taiwan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tien Chung-kwang said the island was ending diplomatic relations with Nauru “to safeguard our national dignity”.

China claims Taiwan has no right to state-to-state ties, a position rejected by Taiwan.

China welcomes decision

Nauru’s move comes just two days after Taiwan’s presidential and parliamentary election. William Lai Ching-te from the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the election held on Saturday as expected and will take office on May 20.

Before the election, China claimed Lai was a dangerous separatist.

China appreciates and welcomes the Nauru government’s decision to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan, China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday. Beijing is willing to open a new chapter in bilateral relations with Nauru on the basis of its one China policy, it said.

Nauru’s move leaves Taiwan with only 12 diplomatic allies that recognise the island as a sovereign state, including Guatemala, Paraguay, Palau, the Marshal Islands and Eswatini – formerly known as Swaziland.

Taiwan and China have engaged in a diplomatic tug-of-war to lure allies in the Pacific region, offering generous aid packages and assistance in agricultural and educational development.

Taiwan also cut its 17-year diplomatic relationship with Nauru in July 2002. But the two countries patched things up in 2005 when Nauru switched back to Taiwan.

The island microstate, with a population of 12,500, is one of the world’s smallest countries and lies about 4,000km (2,500 miles) northeast of the Australian city of Sydney.

Source: News Agencies