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President Tsai makes pitch to preserve Taiwan-Solomon Islands' ties

Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele visits Taipei ahead of decision on China's offer

President Tsai welcomes Solomon Islands' Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele to Presidential Office in Taipei, Sept. 9

President Tsai welcomes Solomon Islands' Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele to Presidential Office in Taipei, Sept. 9 (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) met with the Foreign Minister of the Solomon Islands Jeremiah Manele on Monday (Sept. 9) amid rumors that the government of Solomon Islands may soon sever relations with Taiwan, a staunch diplomatic all of 36 years.

During the meeting, Tsai expressed her desire to continue strengthening bilateral relations with the Solomon Islands declaring that Taiwan is an important member of the international community, and a responsible and willing partner. Tsai also touted the long history of exchanges and cooperation between the two countries.

Tsai touted Taiwan’s contributions to the Solomon Islands in the area of medicine, with many of the country’s doctors having been trained at universities in Taiwan, with one example recently showcased in a film produced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The president also noted that a delegation from the Solomon Islands which included both the Speaker of Parliament Patteson Oti and Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in August 2019. During the visit, Sogavare and Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu signed an agreement on mutual visa exemptions, reports CNA.

The president observed that both countries remain committed to advancing human rights and safeguarding democracy. Given their shared values, Tsai expressed her hope that Solomon Islands would continue to support Taiwan in the international arena as it has done for so many years.

Ever since a new government came to power in the Solomon Islands in an April election, there have been increasing concerns over whether the country would seek to establish ties with China and abandon relations with Taiwan. In early June, Manele announced that Honiara, the capital of Solomon Islands, was indeed considering offers made by China, stating that the country would make a determination within 100 days.

That decision is likely to be publicly declared following Manele’s return to Honiara later this week. Foreign media has reported that China offered the Solomon Islands a substantial aid package if they choose to break ties with Taiwan.

There is also a considerable faction of law makers in the Solomon Islands that are reportedly in favor of taking China up on the offer. The Taiwanese government has warned of Beijing’s “debt trap diplomacy” and has been working to secure relations with the island country over the past few months.