Solomon Islands shifts ties from Taiwan to China for US$500 million in 'aid'

Solomon Islands switches ties from Taiwan to China in exchange for US$500 million in 'aid'

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Composite of Chinese and Solomon Islands flags.

Composite of Chinese and Solomon Islands flags. (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The Solomon Islands has decided to switch diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China today (Sept. 16), reportedly in exchange for US$500 million (NT$15.4 billion) in aid from Beijing.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Damukana Sogavare held a caucus meeting today to discuss whether to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China, reported the Liberty Times. Local sources said that none of the caucus' 33 members voted to remain with Taiwan and that the government has decided to make its official decision to switch to the communist regime, said CNA.

In a last-ditch effort, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) had dispatched a delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Hsu Szu-chien (徐斯儉) to try and persuade South Pacific island country to remain on Taiwan's side. However, the final tally showed that 27 voted in favor of the switch in ties and 6 abstained, with the decision later approved by the cabinet.

In response to the diplomatic switch, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said that Taiwan regrets the decision of the cabinet of the Solomon Islands to establish diplomatic relations with China. Wu said that the Chinese government, through monetary and diplomatic means, aims to attack Taiwan, harm the people of Taiwan, and chip away at Taiwan's sovereignty bit by bit, reported CNA.

Wu said that this time, it was a deliberate attack before Taiwan's general election. The minister said that Taiwan strongly condemns this act and calls on the people of Taiwan to adhere to the concepts of sovereignty, freedom, and democracy.

In diplomatic circles in Beijing, it is widely rumored that in August, a delegation of Solomon Island representatives finalized a US$500 million (NT$15.4 billion) aid package during what was ostensibly a routine visit, reported ETtoday. The funds were said to be contingent on the country severing ties with Taiwan before the end of September.

Despite polls that showed 80 percent of Solomon Islanders and over 50 percent of parliament being against breaking relations with Taiwan in favor of China, it appears that Sogavare was dead set on the move. In order to prevent a vote against the diplomatic switch, Sogavare is said to have extended the parliament's recess to November, according to ETtoday.

Opposition lawmaker Peter Kenilorea, head of the Foreign Affairs committee, issued a statement on Sunday expressing concern about China's growing dominance in the Pacific region and admonishing the Solomon Islands' government that there is no need to "rush the decision," reported the Solomon Times. Malaita Provincial Premier Daniel Suidani said that switching ties to China to gain access to more foreign aid and opportunities is a "cheap excuse."

Suidani said that funding has never been a problem for the country. Instead, he said, "Poor leadership is the main culprit that prevents funding from the traditional aid donor like Taiwan from reaching down to the people in the rural areas," reported the Solomon Star.

With the Solomon Islands' severing of ties, Taiwan is left with 16 diplomatic allies. The decision comes after months of speculation that the South Pacific nation was jockeying to jump ship for Beijing.