Solomon Islands' officials tight-lipped on diplomatic ties with Taiwan

09/09/2019 10:57 PM
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Taipei, Sept. 9 (CNA) Visiting high-level foreign affairs officials from the Solomon Islands were tight-lipped on Monday regarding speculations the Pacific island country will soon switch diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele arrived in Taiwan on Sunday with his four-member delegation for a five-day visit, amid media reports that Taipei-Honiara relations have turned shaky due to clamors from some sectors in the Pacific nation to establish formal ties with China.

In a joint press conference with Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), Manele said his delegation was here to discuss "a number of bilateral issues," including cooperation in agriculture, labor mobility opportunities and possible technology transfers.

While saying Honiara "appreciates the friendly, rich and progressive relations with the Republic of China," the official name of Taiwan, he also confirmed that his country was reviewing its foreign policy.

However, he clarified that the review was not limited to Solomon's relation with Taiwan.

"We have a national mechanism to deal with that," Manele said, referring to Honiara's commitment to review its foreign policy. "That review is a broader one; we have looked at our global posture, reviewing all our overseas missions and relations."

Solomon's diplomatic relations with Taiwan have been under the media spotlight since its new government took power after winning a general election in April, and formed a task force to evaluate the impact of China's assistance to other Pacific nations.

The task force has toured several Pacific nations allied to Beijing in recent months and submitted its evaluation report to the executive department last week.

Manele did not make further disclosures on the issue, but cited several examples that demonstrated the close relations between Honiara and Taipei, including several bilateral agreements signed and interactions between the two sides' high level officials recently.

Meanwhile, Wu said he hoped Taiwan and the Solomon Islands can maintain the tradition of mutual assistance and continue to bolster their friendly relations, which would not only be in the interests of both countries, but also of the Asia-Pacific region.

Both officials left immediately after reading their written statements without taking questions from journalists, letting their deputies answer questions instead.

Collin Beck, Solomon Islands' deputy foreign minister, stressed that it was "business as usual" between the Solomon Islands and Taiwan until its executive department makes a decision on its preference after considering input from the task force, the foreign affairs ministry and the foreign relations committee of the Parliament.

Beck emphasized that such a decision will be made in the best interests of the Solomon Islands and that his country needed help from every member of the international community.

He declined to pre-judge the result of the foreign policy review nor give an estimated time table on when the decision will be made, saying that these questions are "very much above my pay grade."

He also refused to disclose details of the task force report as it was meant for Cabinet evaluation and not for public consumption.

On the other hand, Taiwan's Deputy Foreign Minister Hsu Szu-chien (徐斯儉) confirmed he will make a visit to the Solomon Islands next week. However, he clarified it was part of his regular job to visit allies and not due to the alleged shaky diplomatic ties.

(By Emerson Lim)


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