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Taiwan says it cherishes relations with Tuvalu amid warning ties at risk

01/21/2024 02:27 PM
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The flags of Taiwan and Tuvalu fly next to each other in this CNA file photo
The flags of Taiwan and Tuvalu fly next to each other in this CNA file photo

Taipei, Jan. 21 (CNA) Taiwan cherishes its diplomatic ties with Tuvalu and is willing to continue to enhance relations with the Pacific ally, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said in a statement Sunday.

The reaffirmation of the Taipei-Funafuti friendship came amid an envoy's latest warning that the island nation could soon follow Nauru's decision earlier this month to ditch Taipei for Beijing.

In a news article published on Jan. 19 by the Weekend Australian, Tuvalu Ambassador to the Republic of China (ROC) Bikenibeu Paeniu said "sources from Tuvalu" had told him that his country could follow Nauru and switch its diplomatic recognition to Beijing after its election on Jan. 26.

The former Tuvalu prime minister called on Australia and its allies and partners to closely watch the situation and to step up their support for his nation.

Asked to comment, MOFA reaffirmed Taiwan's strong bilateral cooperation with Tuvalu in various areas, including agriculture and fisheries, medicine and healthcare, information and communications, clean energy, and education and cultural exchanges, since the two countries established diplomatic links in 1979.

MOFA also said that after Taiwan's Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was elected president on Jan. 13, Tuvaluan senior officials and politicians across party lines issued congratulatory messages to Lai, while sending reassurances that Tuvalu-Taiwan ties will remain strong.

The list included Governor General of Tuvalu Tofiga Falani, Prime Minister Kausea Natano, and Samuelu Teo, speaker of the parliament, the ministry added.

It went on to say that Taiwan's government will continue to cherish the countries' solid friendship and act to strengthen bilateral cooperation on various fronts based on the shared values of freedom, democracy, human rights and rule of law.

Nauru announced on Jan. 15 that it was severing ties with the ROC, Taiwan's formal national designation, to recognize the People's Republic of China.

That left the ROC with 12 allies, including the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Palau in the Pacific region.

In The Australian report, Paeniu also said that Beijing had been highly active in Tuvalu since the latter's last election in late 2019.

A number of Chinese companies had offered to help the Pacific island nation -- which is facing an extreme risk of being submerged in the coming decades as sea levels rise -- with a US$400 million artificial island establishment project, according to the envoy.

The Chinese offer was rebuffed, but sources in Taipei told the Weekend Australian that a similar proposal has been made again in the lead-up to next week's election.

Following Nauru's Jan. 15 decision, the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Palau all pledged to stick with Taiwan, according to MOFA.

The severing of ties between Taiwan and Nauru came two days after Lai was elected president. MOFA had accused China of plotting to poach the diplomatic ally of Taiwan as part of a calculated "assault on democracy."

Nauru was also the 10th diplomatic ally Taipei has lost to Beijing since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in May 2016, due to deteriorating cross-Taiwan Strait relations.

(By Joseph Yeh)

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