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China squeezes Taiwan's international space: U.S. Congress report

2018/06/15 13:45:09

Washington, June 14 (CNA) A report released Thursday by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) showed that China's increasing engagement with Pacific Island nations is squeezing Taiwan's space on the international stage.

According to the USCC report, since Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) took power in 2013, China has stepped up its engagement in the world. Beijing has also increased its dealings with the Pacific Island nations by including the region in its "Belt and Road Initiative" -- a major diplomatic and economic development policy.

Such a move demonstrates Beijing's geo-strategic interest in the Pacific Islands region, which is home to considerable natural resources and raw materials, the report said.

"Beijing's heightened engagement in the region in recent years is driven by its broader diplomatic and strategic interests, reducing Taiwan's international space, and gaining access to raw materials and natural resources," the report showed.

The USCC was set up by the U.S. Congress in 2000, to monitor, investigate, and submit an annual report to Congress on the national security implications of the bilateral economic and trade relationship between Washington and Beijing.

Over the past five years, the report said, Beijing has "significantly" strengthened economic relations with the Pacific Islands in trade, investment, development assistance and tourism, making China one of the major participants in the region's development.

The report said China's engagement in the region has largely focused on its eight allies but it has also extended its efforts with countries that have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

During the 2008-2016 tenure of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the China-friendly Kuomintang, Beijing and Taipei reached a "diplomatic truce" to reduce competition between the two sides in the international area, the report said.

However, since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party came to office in May 2016, China has poached Taiwan's diplomatic partners, the report said.

Since Tsai's election, five of Taiwan's former allies -- The Gambia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Burkina Faso -- have switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

Currently, Taiwan's six Pacific Island diplomatic partners are Kiribati, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Nauru, the Republic of Palau, the Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.

In November 2017, China reportedly stopped state-run tour groups from traveling to Palau in a bid to pressure the Pacific country into severing ties with Taiwan, but that effort failed, according to the USCC report.

"With the end of the diplomatic truce between Beijing and Taipei in 2016, there is an increasing potential of reigniting cross-Strait diplomatic competition in the Pacific Islands," the report said.

"Growing economic incentives offered by China to Taiwan's diplomatic partners could cause these countries to switch diplomatic recognition to Beijing, shrinking Taiwan's international space and expanding China's presence in the region. Such a development would negatively affect U.S. interests in the Indo-Pacific," the report noted.

(By Chiang Chin-yeh and Frances Huang)
Enditem/AW