The Solomon Islands yesterday said that it hopes to make a decision by Saturday next week on whether it would cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan and switch recognition to China.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare called a meeting to discuss the possibility of switching diplomatic allegiance to Beijing.
Alex Akwai, the press secretary of the prime minister’s office, told reporters that the meeting did not reach any conclusion and would resume on Tuesday.
The Cabinet hopes to make a decision on the matter before the prime minister departs for New York to attend the UN General Assembly on Saturday next week, Akwai said.
Sogavare convened the meeting, at which lawmakers from the Solomon Island’s Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement were also present, to discuss a report submitted by a cross-party task force that recommended the nation cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
However, some attendees said the meeting only heard a briefing from John Moffat Fugui, leader of the task force, on the report and no discussions were held.
In the report, the task force recommended that the Solomon Islands government switch diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China by the middle of this month, before Beijing celebrates the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China on Oct. 1.
Normalization of ties between Honiara and Beijing represents adherence to the “one China policy/principle” and both countries expect to boost the relationship by exchanging embassies, the report said.
The Solomon Islands, one of Taiwan’s 17 diplomatic allies, has been reviewing diplomatic ties since its new government took office in April.
Reuters reported that the task force returned from a tour of Pacific nations allied with China just before a visit in the middle of last month to Beijing by eight Solomons Islands’ ministers and the prime minister’s private secretary.
Ambassador to the Solomon Islands Oliver Liao (廖文哲) said that in the wake of the report, Taiwan’s embassy mobilized pro-Taiwan lawmakers in Honiara to voice support for Taipei.
Before making a final decision on whether the country would shift recognition to China, Sogavare is to review four documents — the cross-party task force report, a report from the Solomon Islands Foreign Relations Committee, a report from the Solomon Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade and a report from the prime minister’s office.
With Sogavare expected to meet with US Vice President Mike Pence in the US, pro-China Solomon Islands lawmakers expressed hope that he would make a decision on ties with Taiwan before leaving to avoid any attempt by Washington to exert its influence.
In Washington, a source said that the US fears the severing of ties between Taiwan and the Solomon Islands would hurt US interests in the region, and Pence wants to take advantage of the meeting with Sogavare at the UN to ask him to maintain the “status quo.”
However, the source said that if Honiara makes the decision before Sogavare departs for New York, Pence would only be able to express the US’ stance and the meeting would likely make no difference.
On Wednesday, US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs David Helvey voiced concern about ties between Taipei and Honiara at the conclusion of a forum held by the Washington-based Global Taiwan Institute.