Taiwan strengthens security ties with India, Japan, Australia and Singapore

Closer ties with larger countries come amid loss of official allies

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President Tsai Ing-wen leaving on a tour of Pacific allies last year.

President Tsai Ing-wen leaving on a tour of Pacific allies last year. (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – As Taiwan’s number of official diplomatic allies keeps dwindling under pressure from China, the island is seeking closer security ties to countries like India, Japan, Australia and Singapore, the Reuters news agency reported Friday.

Since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in May 2016, a total of five diplomatic allies switched ties to Beijing, leaving Taiwan with only 17 allies, mostly small or impoverished nations in the South Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean. Its only ally in Europe is the Vatican, and in Africa the kingdom of eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland.

As a response, Taiwan has been cultivating discreet security links with larger countries also worried by China’s military advances, Reuters reported.

The island democracy has been sharing information about the Chinese armed forces with India and attracting Japanese experts to help with its domestic submarine development program, according to Reuters.

The new links come on top of intensifying relations with the United States, traditionally Taiwan’s biggest international backer. Reuters said U.S. estimates have an average of 100 officials, including military staff, visiting Taiwan each week.

Contacts with India, which has already been targeted in a wide variety of fields under President Tsai’s “New Southbound Policy,” are also becoming closer in the security field.

“Unofficial military attaches have been placed within Taiwan’s new de-facto embassy, the Taipei Economic Cultural Centre, while senior Indian military officers regularly visit Taipei on ordinary rather than official passports,” Reuters reported.

The officers reportedly apply for “study leave” to visit Taiwan and obtain information about Chinese military affairs, in particular intelligence which is the result of the Taiwanese “watching the Chinese,” according to Reuters.

Australia was interested in Chinese navy maneuvers in the South China Sea and the Pacific, but the cooperation with Taiwan was unlikely to culminate in arms deals, the news agency said.

The Reuters report pointed at the Prospect Foundation, a think tank partly funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and close to the National Security Council, as playing an important part in developing low-key relations with overseas security and military experts and officials.