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Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday received a delegation from the Solomon Islands amid concerns the small Pacific archipelago is planning to become the latest country to switch its diplomatic allegiance to China.
Tsai received a delegation led by Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele and vowed to strengthen diplomatic relations with the Solomon Islands, which she described as an “affectionate ally”.
“It has shown tremendous support in the international arena, such as meetings at organisations affiliated with the United Nations,” Tsai said.
The meeting was seen as a reaffirmation of bilateral relations amid speculation that the Pacific ally is going to shift its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.
Manele, who has visited Taiwan several times in the past, arrived in Taiwan Sunday with a four-member delegation for a five-day visit, the first in his capacity as Solomon Islands foreign minister after he assumed the post in May.
Tsai lauded the 36-year diplomatic relations between the Republic of China (Taiwan), and the Solomon Islands and thanked Honaira for its continuous support in Taiwan's efforts to participate in United Nations Specialized Agencies and related activities.
“Good friends should get together often, and Taiwan and the Solomon Islands are a perfect example of this spirit,” Tsai said, citing Solomon Islands Parliament Speaker Patteson Oti's participation in the Asia-Pacific Parliamentarians' Union (APPU) annual gathering in Taipei in early August.
Another example pointed out by Tsai was the signing of a visa waiver agreement by Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and Manele on the sidelines of the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu in mid-August, which was witnessed by Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.
Tsai also mentioned a video produced by Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) that tells the story of Solomon Islands doctor Paul Bosawai Popora, who studied in Taiwan and established a clinic in a rural area to help the poor after his return to the Pacific island.
Tsai further said she toured the Taiwan Health Center in the Solomon Islands National Referral Hospital in 2017 during a visit to Honaira, where she received a briefing from Taiwan's medical mission.
“Their work made one thing very clear to me: Taiwan is a responsible member of the international community and a partner willing to make contributions. This is more than just a slogan, it is what we are putting into practice every day”.
Tsai stressed that Taiwan and the Solomon Islands are partners that support each other and both share common values in freedom, democracy, human rights and in combating climate change, as demonstrated in the past three years, when both countries gained results in projects in the fields of agriculture, medical services and human resources.
She vowed to join hands with the Solomon Islands to further promote bilateral relations and expressed hope that Honaira will continue its support for Taiwan on the international stage.
Meanwhile, in a Twitter post, Wu described Manele as a “good friend” and said the meeting was excellent and conducted in high spirits.
Manele's visit came at a time when Taipei-Honaira relations are being tested due to Beijing's efforts to further isolate Taiwan in the international community, especially when Taiwan will hold its presidential election in 2020.
The Solomon Islands' new government declared a review of its relations with Taiwan and China following a general election in April and a task force formed for that purpose has toured several Pacific nations allied to Beijing in the past months, according to reports from foreign media.
Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said last Friday that the Solomon Islands should be wary about switching its allegiance and not risk falling into China's “debt trap”.
Ministry spokesman Joanne Ou said China's growing influence in the Pacific region trapped some countries with debt, and its infrastructure projects caused environmental damage.
Beijing's “One China” principle requires that other nations avoid formal diplomatic recognition of Taiwan.
The island has had a separate government since Chinese Nationalists fled there in 1949 after losing a civil war to the communists.
SOURCE: CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY/DPA/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
Who & What is PINA?
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
Media Helping Media