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Nauru president Baron Waqa has strongly endorsed Taiwan’s contributions to the Pacific, as regional neighbour Solomon Islands considers severing diplomatic relations with Taipei in favour of China.
At the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) in Tuvalu, Waqa declared Taiwan was a “strong partner” to his country, and was unfairly excluded from participating in high-level international dialogues.
President Waqa, who last year accused China of “bullying” PIF nations after a walkout by Beijing’s representative to the forum, said he would not “dwell in the domestic business” of Solomon Islands.
But he said Taiwan “has to be respected” for its commitment to the region, where it has diplomatic relations with six countries — Nauru, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Palau, Marshall Islands, and Solomon Islands.
“Taiwan is a very strong partner … where we benefit from training (and) co-operation, in many fields,” Waqa said.
“We are very proud of being Taiwan’s friends and recognising Taiwan, being a democratic country.
“It is a very good partner, in everything we do. Just ask around the region — even those that do not recognise Taiwan diplomatically, they appreciate Taiwan’s participating well in the Pacific … especially in improving the quality of life for people.”
He said Nauru was concerned that Taiwan was not recognised by the UN, “where they could bring in their expertise in so many fields”.
The comments risk a backlash from Beijing, which considers Taiwan to be part of China and piles diplomatic pressure on those that have diplomatic relations with Taipei.
President Waqa said Nauru was concerned that “the rest of the world, especially the UN, are not living up their principles where people are not left behind”.
“These people, 22 people million people of Taiwan are obviously segregated,” he said.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, who is attending the PIF meeting, has convened a taskforce to recommend whether his country sticks with Taiwan, or recognises China.
The taskforce will soon head to Beijing after touring Pacific nations that recognise China to assess the impacts of the relationship.
China has asked Papua New Guinea to use its influence with regional neighbours at this year’s PIF to ensure a representative for Beijing is able to address the forum.
The request follows a diplomatic incident at last year’s PIF in Nauru, when the Chinese delegate staged a walkout.
The PIF secretariat has told participants at the Forum in Tuvalu they will be required to adhere to a strict speaking order, after a protest by Chinese envoy Du Qiwen last year, when Waqa ordered him to be seated to allow Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga to address the meeting.
The United States has accused Beijing of undermining regional stability by pushing Taiwan’s Pacific allies to sever ties with Taipei, warning Chinese interference in the affairs of regional countries is ramping up tensions and “the possibility of conflict”.
SOURCE: THE AUSTRALIAN/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
Who & What is PINA?
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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