TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The Pacific nation of Palau has reaffirmed its commitment to maintaining diplomatic ties with Taiwan despite mounting pressure from the Chinese Communist Party for them to switch recognition to Beijing.
China recently banned group tours from China visiting Palau, which was seen as a big blow to the country's tourism industry. Tourism is one of Palau’s biggest industries and China has sent as many as 88,000 tourists a year there in the past.
But speaking to the Nikkei Asian Review, Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. stressed that his country’s shared values with Taiwan were more important and it would be dangerous for Palau’s tourism sector to be overly dependent on just one country.
"China is an important partner," the President said. "If we had a choice, we would like to recognize China and Taiwan tomorrow…. [But] ideals, values and principles such as freedom [mean we have] more in common with Taiwan."
He confirmed that Palau had no intention of cutting diplomatic ties to Taipei and insisted that they would not do so as long as he remains President. Remengesau’s term of office in Palau runs until 2021.
Addressing the shortfall in tourist numbers to the island, Remengesau explained that "We have to diversify our sources of tourism, attracting tourists from many countries. We are mindful not to be dependent on one particular nation."
President Remengesau’s comments will provide a boost to the Taiwanese government which has seen several of its diplomatic allies succumb to Chinese dollar diplomacy, most recently the Dominican Republic.
His suggestion that Palau would like to recognize both countries could raise a few eyebrows. There are many governments around the world that would no doubt share his sentiments, but China’s intransigence on the so-called "One China" policy and their renewed focus on nationalistic sentiment under the Xi Jinping regime makes such a step impossible. It would however be interesting to hear the Taiwan Government’s response to such as suggestion.
For now, it seems that Taiwan has at least one formal diplomatic ally that it can depend on. At a time when rumors are swirling of China trying to entice others with big financial incentives, that will be welcome. And it will also be reassuring that see that the values of freedom and democracy do still matter in some diplomatic circles.