U.S. urges Tuvalu to cooperate with Taiwan to push for democracy
Washington, Sept. 27 (CNA) U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo on Friday encouraged to Tuvalu to work with Taiwan to push for democracy in the Pacific region as international media reported recently that the selection of a new prime minister in the South Pacific country could complicate its diplomatic relationship with Taiwan.
Pompeo mentioned the cooperation between Tuvalu and Taiwan in a statement, saying the United States has been a friend of Tuvalu since the South Pacific country's independence in 1978, and the close ties have extended back to earlier generations.
"We welcome your commitment to advancing our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region with other democracies in the Pacific region including Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, and Japan," Pompeo said.
The statement came before Pompeo was scheduled to attend a celebration ceremony planned by Tuvalu for the 41st anniversary of its independence next month.
Earlier this month, newly-installed lawmakers of Tuvalu elected Kausea Natano as the country new prime minister to succeed the pro-Taiwan predecessor Enele Sopoaga.
That has raised concerns over the island nation's ties with Taiwan. International media reported the new political situation in Tuvalu could provide a chance for Beijing to poach Tuvalu and convince it to switch to recognizing the People's Republic of China as the only China.
Tuvalu is one of the four diplomatic allies Taiwan has in the South Pacific, with the other three being Palau, Nauru, and the Marshall Islands.
Washington has expressed serious concerns about Taiwan's loss of diplomatic allies to Beijing, in particular after Taipei lost two diplomatic allies -- the Solomon Islands and Kiribati, both in the Pacific - in just last week.
On Sept. 16, the Solomon Islands decided to switch diplomatic allegiance from Taipei to Beijing, and four days later Kiribati did the same, leaving Taiwan with only 15 diplomatic allies worldwide.
On Thursday, Randall Schriver, U.S. assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, even warned in a congressional hearing that the Marshall Islands and Palau, two allies of Taiwan, face great pressure from China to change their allegiance to China.
In addition, Beijing could persuade another one or two countries to switch sides before the end of the year as a way of interfering in Taiwan's 2020 elections, according to a report released by Taiwan's National Security Council Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations passed the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act aimed at supporting Taiwan's international presence.
In the statement, Pompeo praised Tuvalu's efforts to successfully hold the 50th Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in August, providing a critical venue for necessary dialogue among key partners present in and committed to the region.
Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) led a delegation to attend the PIF then.
During the opening of the 74th session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Sept. 17, representatives from 11 of Taiwan's diplomatic allies, including Tuvalu, delivered a joint letter to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to express support for Taiwan's participation in the U.N.
In early September, a Reuters report cited Tuvalu's budget documents as saying Taiwan would contribute US$7.06 million to the island nation's budget in 2019.
Tuvalu, with a population of about 12,000 people, is one of the smallest electoral democracies in the world.
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