Kiribati turns towards China's embrace, ties with Taiwan tenuous

Beijing targets Taiwan's remaining Pacific allies ahead of National Day and Taiwan elections

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TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Following the Solomon Islands’ decision to break ties with Taiwan on Monday (Sept. 16), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) is concerned that Beijing is making a full-court press to convince other diplomatic allies of Taipei to cut ties before the 70th anniversary of the PRC, which will occur on Oct. 1, and ahead of Taiwan's national elections in January.

The next target for Beijing is likely to be Kiribati. According to media reports, Chinese officials are in high-level talks with the Kiribati government that Beijing hopes to conclude within days, which, if successful, could mean the end of diplomatic relations between Taiwan and Kiribati.

Kiribati has recognized communist China in the past but established ties with Taiwan in 2003. Now it appears Beijing’s influence in the Pacific may have enticed it to abandon its relationship with Taiwan, with an opposition lawmaker in regional neighbor the Solomon Islands fearing that the country’s decision could trigger a domino effect among Taiwan’s remaining Pacific allies.

On Friday (Sept. 20) MOFA Spokeswomen Joanne Ou (歐江安) said that the ministry will be addressing the situation in due course, reports the China Times. Song Wen-chang (宋文城), the former Taiwanese Ambassador in Tarawa, the capital of Kiribati, returned from his post in August and has not yet been replaced.

Radio New Zealand (RNZ) quotes an opposition lawmaker in Kiribati, Ieremia Tabai of the Boutokan Te Koaua Party, who says that at least one government minister had confirmed the decision earlier this week. An embassy official in Tarawa told RNZ that nothing has been decided yet but did confirm that Kiribati officials were holding talks on diplomatic ties.