t’s been a rather rough week for Taiwan which has now lost its second diplomatic ally in the past five days.
The country of Kiribati cut ties with Taipei on Friday, moving to switch its recognition over to China. This comes after the fellow Pacific nation of the Solomon Islands did the same thing on Monday.
Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen said that her government “deeply regrets” Kiribati’s decision, calling it a “big mistake” to abandon a “true friend” and instead become Beijing’s “chess piece.”
We regret to announce the end of #Taiwan's diplomatic ties with #Kiribati. The government stands strong in resisting #China’s campaign of coercion, interference in the elections & imposition of "one country, two systems" on the 23 million people. Read on: https://t.co/W6jNqWVXkb.
— 外交部 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ROC (Taiwan) 🇹🇼 (@MOFA_Taiwan) September 20, 2019
Kiribati actually first established diplomatic relations with China in 1980, shortly after achieving its independence from the United Kingdom, but switched over to Taiwan in 2003.
Foreign minister Joseph Wu denied that there was any sort of domino effect operating in the Pacific where Taiwan is still holding onto four allies, insisting that Taiwan’s relations with the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, and Tuvalu remain as stable as ever.
Since Tsai Ing-wen took office as president in 2016, Taiwan has seen seven nations switch sides to the People’s Republic of China:Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic,São Tomé and Príncipe, Panama, El Salvador, the Solomon Islands, and, now, Kiribati.
Prior to Tsai’s presidency, Taiwan hadn’t lost an ally since 2008 (Malawi).
Taipei has accused Beijing of splashing around huge sums of money in third world countries as a way of further isolating Tsai’s independence-leaning administration, declaring that it will not engage in China’s “dollar and debt-trap diplomacy.”
While the Solomon Islands severed ties with Taiwan after receiving a $500 million aid package from Beijing, Kiribati’s decision appears to have been caused by airplanes.
According to Wu, Kiribati had frequently asked Taiwan to donate commercial airplanes, but the Taiwanese government had refused, leading to Beijing promising funds for the procurement of “several airlines and commercial ferries.”
For its part, China has once again denied buying off Taiwan’s former allies.
Kiribati will see many development opportunities via cooperation with the Chinese mainland; principles and trust cannot be bought: a Chinese FM spokesperson refuted rumors that Chinese mainland used money to negotiate for #Kiribati to break ties with the island of #Taiwan. https://t.co/qoWTBqLP3Y
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) September 20, 2019
Here are the 15 countries that still have full diplomatic relations with Taiwan: Belize, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Paraguay, Vatican City, Eswatini, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, and Tuvalu.
Who will be next to go? Better make your bets quick!