Taipei-Honiara relations facing challenges: Taiwan foreign minister
Taipei, Sept. 11 (CNA) Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said Wednesday that Taiwan has been working with like-minded countries on how to help with the national development of the Solomon Islands amid challenges in the relations between the two sides.
The Solomon Islands, one of Taiwan's 17 diplomatic allies, has been reviewing its ties with Taiwan since its new government took office in April.
Speculations on Honiara's possible switch of diplomatic allegiance to Beijing have been running high, particularly with the approach of Taiwan's presidential election in January 2020.
"Taiwan-Solomon Islands ties are indeed facing challenges," Wu said in an exclusive interview with CNA.
In an effort to meet those challenges, Taiwan recently invited Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele for a visit, and he arrived in Taipei on Sunday, Wu said.
Manele was taken to southern Taiwan to see the advanced agricultural development there and to explore opportunities for bilateral cooperation in the area of agriculture, Wu said.
In addition, Taiwan has been assisting the Solomon Islands in the areas of health and education, Wu said.
The "Taiwan model" of cooperation may not focus on huge sums of money but its effects can be felt directly by the people in the countries that are receiving assistance, he said.
In contrast, China makes multi-billion dollar pledges that either remain unfulfilled or lead the receiving countries into debt traps, Wu said.
"We hope the Taiwan model, which is appreciated by the Solomon Islands people, will shine in the Pacific region and solidify our relations with them," he said.
He also said Taiwan is holding discussions with like-minded countries, including the United States, on how to help the Solomon Islands and how to solidify ties with Taipei's diplomatic allies.
China's maneuvering in the Pacific region, using its economic strength as leverage, has alarmed the U.S., Japan and Australia, which are worried that an expansion of Beijing's authoritarian power will adversely affect the democratic structures in the region, Wu said.
"If these countries are concerned about the situation, they will also be concerned about Taiwan's diplomatic plight and will want closer cooperation with Taiwan," he said.
Meanwhile, according to a report in "The Australian" newspaper Wednesday, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has said that Taiwan is "completely useless to us" and suggested that China would be a better diplomatic partner because it could stand up to Australia.
Commenting on the report, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said such a statement did not fully reflect the reality of Taiwan-Solomon Islands relations and that the Taiwan embassy in Honiara was communicating closely with Sogavare.
It will not be in the best interests of the Solomon Islands and its people for a few politicians to make a decision to switch ties to Beijing based on their personal interests, she said.
Other countries that uphold democracy, rule of law and human rights do not want to see that happening either, Ou said.
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