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Nauru's financial demands key to breaking ties with Taiwan: Official

01/15/2024 10:13 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, Jan. 15 (CNA) Nauru asked Taiwan for around 125 million Australian dollars (US$83.23 million) to keep an immigration detention facility going but it switched diplomatic recognition to China before Taipei gave a final answer, a Taiwanese diplomatic source said.

The unnamed source, who was directly involved in Taiwan-Nauru issues, disclosed the funding request amount after Deputy Foreign Minister Tien Chung-kwang (田中光) said earlier Monday that a key to Nauru's move was Taipei not responding positively to the request.

Tien, however, did not give an exact number during his press conference Monday afternoon when he announced Taiwan's decision to end diplomatic relations with Nauru, following Nauru's announcement to make the diplomatic switch.

The unnamed source said the 125 million Australian dollars was meant to cover a financial shortfall left by the temporary closure of the Nauru Regional Processing Center (RPC), an offshore Australian immigration detention facility.

The source, however, said Taiwan's government could not afford the large sum of money requested by the ex-ally "all by itself."

"We cannot waste taxpayer money," the source said.

But before Taipei was able to give a final yes or no answer to the Nauru government, as it was still engaged in talks with other like-minded partners to jointly support the RPC project, Nauru "ambushed" Taiwan early Monday by ditching Taipei for Beijing, the source said.

"I would say the RPC project is the straw that broke the camel's back [the Taiwan-Nauru relations]," the source said.

The source believed that was when China finalized its offer on the RPC project, which was accepted by the Nauru side, and they were simply waiting for the right moment to announce the switch.

The severing of ties came two days after Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party was elected president, and it left the Republic of China, Taiwan's formal name, with only 12 diplomatic allies.

At Monday afternoon's press event, 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 were congratulating Taiwan over its latest democratic elections, Beijing chose this way to suppress Taiwan, Tien said.

Meanwhile, the source indicated that there were strains in bilateral relations between Nauru and Taiwan even before the Pacific ally mentioned the RPC project to Taiwan.

That is also why the foreign ministry decided to replace former ambassador Benson Lin (林鼎翔) with Joseph Chow (周進發) in December, a more seasoned veteran who previously served in Nauru as ambassador from 2014 to 2019.

But Chow only arrived in Nauru on Jan. 12 and had yet to meet any senior Nauru officials before the Pacific island country announced the switch, the source said.

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

(By Joseph Yeh)


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