Taiwan hails US ties but loses rare ally as Pacific nation Nauru switches to China

Taiwan’s president-elect Lai Ching-te on Monday hailed the island’s “solid partnership” with the United States as he welcomed a delegation from Washington making a post-election visit expected to anger Beijing. But in a blow to Taipei, the tiny South Pacific nation of Nauru announced it was severing diplomatic ties with Taiwan and would instead recognise China.

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The surprise move by Nauru – one of the few countries that officially recognised Taiwan on a diplomatic basis – came just two days after Lai won a high-stakes election that was closely watched by China.

Voters on the self-ruled island defied Beijing’s repeated calls not to elect Lai, whom Chinese officials condemned as a dangerous separatist who would take Taiwan down the “evil path” of independence.

Beijing, which claims the self-ruled island as its territory and has never renounced force to bring it under its control, insisted that the vote did not change the fact the island was part of China.

During his meeting with the unofficial US delegation on Monday, Lai described freedom and democracy as “the most valuable assets for the Taiwanese people, and the sacred mountains to protect Taiwan”.

He added: “They are also the core values Taiwan and the United States share and the foundation for the long-term stability in Taiwan-US partnership.”

The delegation consisted of a former US national security adviser and a former deputy secretary of state, and was led by the chair of the American Institute of Taiwan – the de facto US embassy for the island.

Before meeting Lai, its members went to the Presidential Office to meet with Taiwan’s outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen, who said their visit highlights the “close and staunch” US-Taiwan partnership.

Read moreTaiwan’s Lai Ching-te wins presidential vote, vows to defend island from China threats

Communist-ruled China vehemently objects to anything that even suggests official recognition of Taiwan, and the US visit was expected to cause annoyance.

The Chinese foreign ministry on Sunday condemned US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for congratulating Lai on his victory.

Nauru switches to China

Lai, of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), had vowed to defend the island from China’s “intimidation”, and Taipei’s foreign ministry told Beijing to accept the result.

Taiwan is not diplomatically recognised by most countries in the world, though the United States is a partner and its top weapons provider.

The list of Taipei’s allies was further reduced on Monday when the Pacific nation of Nauru announced it was switching its diplomatic recognition to China – leaving Taiwan with just 12 diplomatic allies around the world.

In a media release, the Nauru government said it would no longer recognise Taiwan “as a separate country” but “rather as an inalienable part of China’s territory”.

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

Following the switch, Taiwan in turn said it was ending diplomatic relations with Nauru “to safeguard our national dignity”. It also accused Beijing of exercising “diplomatic repression” to isolate it on the international stage.

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.

Nauru’s decision will be seen as a major coup for Beijing, which won the recognition of the nearby Solomon Islands in 2019.

That decision fuelled concern among Western allies that China might seek to establish an increased military footprint in the strategically important Pacific region.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Source: Thanks france24