Aggressive Kiribati presidential election campaign centers on Taiwan

Establishing a working relationship with Taiwan does not equal switching ties back again: Kiribati legislator

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File photo of Kiribati President Taneti Maamau (front left) visiting Chinese leader Xi Jinping (front center)

File photo of Kiribati President Taneti Maamau (front left) visiting Chinese leader Xi Jinping (front center) (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – An aggressive campaign for Monday’s (June 22) presidential election in the Pacific island nation of Kiribati has almost entirely focused on Taiwan, the Reuters news agency reported Friday (June 19).

The country ended 16 years of official diplomatic ties with Taipei last September to recognize China, but the switch met with widespread opposition which continued into the current election campaign.

Incumbent President Taneti Maamau is facing a challenge from a former ally, Banuera Berina, whose party would want to establish a working relationship with Taiwan, though not necessarily breaking off ties to China, according to an unnamed legislator who talked to Reuters.

The former president who recognized Taipei in 2003, Anote Tong, described the current election campaign as “the most aggressive” he ever saw, while telling Reuters that the “very active participation of the Chinese diplomatic mission during the campaign” had provoked strong feelings against Beijing.

The island hosts a space tracking station which Western nations fear China will use to observe missile tests by the United States in the Pacific.