Taiwan seeks to solidify ties with Solomon Islands

Taiwan's Ambassador Roger Luo met newly-elected Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare on Friday

Taiwan envoy Roger Luo and Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare

Taiwan envoy Roger Luo and Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (CNA) -- Taiwan's Ambassador to the Solomon Islands Roger Luo (羅添宏) met with the Pacific nation's newly-elected Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare on Friday, in an effort to solidify bilateral ties between the two countries, in the wake of questions raised about those ties after the nation's general election in April.

In the meeting, Luo congratulated Sogavare on winning a fourth term as prime minister and expressed the hope that the two countries can continue to strengthen ties, Taiwan's embassy in the Solomon Islands said in a Facebook post Saturday.

In return, the prime minister said he looks forward to enhanced cooperation on the economy, trade and medical care.

Taiwan's diplomatic ties with the south Pacific nation were in the news recently after several reports cited senior Solomon Islands politicians, including former Prime Minister Rick Hou, as saying they would review their country's diplomatic relations with Taiwan if elected, raising the possibility of a diplomatic switch from Taipei to Beijing.

In an interview on April 30 with the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC), Sogavare said he is maintaining the status quo, "but it is something that we will continue to develop, it is not hard and fast and fixed."

"The principle that we follow into diplomatic relations is of course we look at other things as well, how do we benefit from that relationship," SIBC quoted him as saying.

In an email to CNA on Thursday, Solomon Islands Ambassador to Taiwan Joseph Waleanisia said that his country is still putting together its policy position on foreign relations with all countries it has diplomatic ties with, including Taiwan.

"For now, the PM has stated diplomatic relations with Taiwan remain unchanged. It is important that media news outlets do not mix this up with public opinion and unqualified news posts including social media," Waleanisia said.

Unless and until the government decides otherwise, diplomatic relations between the two countries remain cordial and intact, he added.

Following an inconclusive April 3 election in which no single party won a majority, Sogavare won the backing of 34 of the country's 50 members of parliament in a controversial run-off on April 24, with his opponents boycotting the vote.

The Solomon Islands has had diplomatic ties with Taiwan since 1983.