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Tuvalu affirms ties with Taiwan after warning of possible switch: MOFA

01/23/2024 02:42 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, Jan. 23 (CNA) Senior officials in Tuvalu have affirmed that the Pacific island country will maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan after a warning emerged on Jan. 19 of a possible severance of ties, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said Tuesday.

Eric Chen (陳俊吉), deputy head of MOFA's East Asia and Pacific Affairs, said MOFA and its embassy in Tuvalu reached out to Tuvalu's government and its ambassador to the Republic of China (ROC), Bikenibeu Paeniu, after the warning was issued by Paeniu.

According to Chen, the Tuvalu government immediately clarified that Paeniu's controversial statement did not represent the Pacific country's official stance, and it affirmed that its diplomatic relations with Taiwan remained strong.

In an article in the Weekend Australian on Jan. 19, Paeniu was cited as saying that "sources from Tuvalu" had told him that his country could follow Nauru and switch its diplomatic recognition to Beijing after Tuvalu's 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.

The warning came after 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.

Meanwhile, a diplomatic source speaking on condition of anonymity told reporters Tuesday that Paeniu told MOFA that his source on the potential diplomatic switch was originally from Nauru.

Given that Nauru had just established diplomatic ties with China, the source said it was highly likely that Nauru was working closely with Beijing to spread disinformation to put more pressure on Taipei.

The source also said MOFA and Taiwan's embassy in Tuvalu have continued to maintain cordial relations with all 16 Tuvalu parliamentarians across party lines.

Except for one or two members considered to be more pro-China, a large majority of Tuvalu's parliamentarians have all agreed to continue to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the source said.

It is therefore believed that Taiwan-Tuvalu ties will remain unchanged no matter who wins the Jan. 26 general election and become the next prime minister of Tuvalu, the source said.

MOFA initially said on Jan. 21 in response to Paeniu's comments that it cherished ties with Tuvalu but it did not specifically voice any confidence that ties would be maintained.

The severing of ties between Taiwan and Nauru came two days after Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was elected president.

It was 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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