Taiwan foreign minister urges action from Pacific partners to prevent China's expansion

Taiwan's government officials and US counterparts meet in Taipei for inaugural Pacific Island Dialogue

Wu (center-left), Christensen (center-right), Oudkirk (second from right). (MOFA photo)

Wu (center-left), Christensen (center-right), Oudkirk (second from right). (MOFA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) lashed out at China on Monday (Oct. 7) for poaching the island’s Pacific allies, warning countries in the region of Beijing’s attempt to turn the Pacific into another South China Sea, where militarization by the Chinese government troubles its neighbors.

Officials from the Taiwanese government and their U.S. counterparts joined together in Taipei on Monday for the inaugural Pacific Island Dialogue. The event was co-hosted by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).

Since the Solomon Islands and Kiribati switched diplomatic ties to China in September, the dialogue was considered a new platform for the Taiwanese and American authorities to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation and retain Taiwan’s allies and presence in the region.

“I am here today representing President Trump and Secretary Pompeo to kick off this inaugural dialogue,” remarked Sandra Oudkirk, U.S. deputy assistant secretary for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Taking up the post in July, Oudkirk​​​​​ leads a delegation that includes Daniel Delk, director of the Office of Taiwan Coordination under the U.S. Department of State, and Sean Callahan, USAID Regional Coordinator for the Pacific Islands and Mongolia.

The deputy assistant secretary affirmed the U.S.’s commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific achieved through transparency and rule-based order while criticizing the debt-trap development model that China has utilized to expand its influence in the region. “Development financing should not result in unsustainable debt,” said Oudkirk. “Recipients of financing and development assistance should be assured of their partners’ commitment to seeing all aspects of their societies flourish,” she said.

Oudkirk commended Taiwan’s contributions to the region in such areas as health, disaster relief, environmental protection, and law enforcement cooperation, emphasizing the American support for Taiwan’s relations with Pacific island states. “We want to explore how we can join Taiwan in advancing this vision for an Indo-Pacific that is free, open, and thriving,” she added.

Taking a harder tone in his remarks, Wu called for action from partner countries to prevent China’s expansion in the region. “The Pacific has been seriously challenged by the undercurrent of authoritarian expansionism,” said Wu, adding that Beijing targeted the Solomon Islands and Kiribati for their strategic locations, which might pose a threat to the security of Australia and the U.S.

“I certainly don’t want to see the Pacific turned into another South China Sea, with us one day all sighing that it is too late for us to do anything,” said the foreign minister, referring to Chinese military facilities and deployment of aircraft on artificial islands. “From the long-term strategic perspective, like-minded friends and partners should really be worried whether the Pacific will remain free and open and whether the key actors follow the rules-based international order,” Wu said.