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China's post-election poaching of Nauru 'an assault on democracy': MOFA

01/15/2024 06:12 PM
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The hall of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei. CNA file photo
The hall of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei. CNA file photo

Taipei, Jan. 15 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Monday accused China of plotting to poach diplomatic ally Nauru two days after Taiwan's presidential election as part of a calculated "assault on democracy."

At an emergency press event, Deputy Foreign Minister Tien Chung-kwang (田中光) denounced Nauru's announcement earlier Monday that it would cut ties with Taiwan, officially named the Republic of China (ROC), in favor of establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing.

Tien blasted Beijing over the timing of the switch, describing it as a "despicable act by China" as well as "an assault on democracy and a challenge to international norms."

As the world's democracies congratulated Taiwan over the holding of another round of democratic elections, Beijing chose this way to suppress Taiwan, Tien said.

"In order to safeguard national sovereignty and dignity, Taiwan has decided to terminate diplomatic relations with Nauru effective immediately, as well as comprehensively cease bilateral cooperation plans, withdraw our embassy staff and technical mission personnel, and request that Nauru close its embassy in Taiwan," Tien said.

The severing of ties comes two days after Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was elected president, and leaves the ROC with only 12 diplomatic allies.

It was also the 10th diplomatic ally Taipei has lost to Beijing since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in May 2016.

Tien told reporters Monday that Taiwan has learned since last year that former President Russ Joseph Kun, who became president in September 2022, was considering changing allegiance to Beijing as early as in 2023.

Kun was later ousted following an Oct. 25 vote of no confidence and was replaced by David Adeang, who, according to MOFA, was considered to be more Taiwan-friendly.

The bilateral relations were then temporarily stabilized with Adeang taking office, according to Tien, who oversees Pacific island affairs at MOFA.

According to Tien, Nauru's government had asked for a large sum of money prior to the switch - a request that Taiwan refused.

While not giving an exact figure, Tien said Nauru had requested a high amount of economic aid from Taiwan, in part to cover the financial gap left by the closure of the Nauru Regional Processing Center (RPC, an offshore Australian immigration detention facility).

It also needed funding to build stadiums for the 2026 Micronesian Games it will host and deal with the impending departure of Australia's Bendigo Bank from Nauru, Tien said.

Nauru's government, therefore, was actively comparing the aid proposals provided by Taiwan and China, Tien said.

However, Tien described Monday's announcement as an "ambush."

According to Tien, Taiwan sent a delegation to Nauru on Jan. 12 to solidify ties while Nauru also sent a congratulatory message to Lai's election victory on Sunday, which made the timing of the switch a surprise.

Earlier Monday, Nauru President Adeang announced his government's decision to switch ties in the best interests of its government and its people.

"This means that the Republic of Nauru will no longer recognize the Republic of China (Taiwan) as a separate country but rather as an inalienable part of China's territory, and will sever 'diplomatic relations' with Taiwan as of this day and no longer develop any official relations or official exchanges with Taiwan, according to the statement.

The decision marks the second time Nauru has cut ties with the ROC.

The ROC first established diplomatic relations with Nauru in 1980 before the Pacific island cut ties with Taipei and recognized Beijing in July 2002.

In May 2005, the ROC and Nauru reestablished diplomatic relations and opened embassies in each other's capitals. Beijing consequently severed its relations with Nauru.

Chinese foreign ministry, meanwhile, said on Monday it appreciated and welcomed the decision of Nauru.

"China has established diplomatic relations with 182 countries on the basis of the one-China principle. The Nauru government's decision to reestablish diplomatic ties with China once again shows that the 'one-China' principle is where global opinion trends and where the arc of history bends," said in a statement.

(By Joseph Yeh)

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