Solomon Island Cabinet meets to discuss ties with Taiwan

Honiara, Solomon-A Cabinet meeting in the Solomon Islands to discuss ties with Taiwan amid speculation Honiara is set to shift recognition from Taipei to Beijing ended with no decision Friday.

The meeting discussed a report submitted by a cross party task force which recommends the nation should cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

According to the report, a copy of which has been obtained by CNA, the task force recommends the Solomon Islands government switch diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China by mid-September, before Beijing celebrates the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China on Oct. 1.

The report said the normalization of ties between Honiara and Beijing is under the “One China Policy/Principle,” and both countries expect to strengthen their bilateral relationship through the exchange of embassies.

The Solomon Islands, one of Taiwan’s 17 diplomatic allies, has been reviewing bilateral ties since its new government took office in April.

Lawmakers from the Solomon Island’s Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA) made their presence felt at the Cabinet meeting.

Republic of China (Taiwan) Ambassador to the Solomon Islands Oliver Liao (???) told CNA that in the wake of the cross party task force’s report, Taiwan’s embassy has mobilized pro-Taiwan lawmakers in Honiara to voice support for Taipei during the Cabinet meeting.

According to a report from Reuters last month, the cross party task force charged with evaluating Taiwan ties returned from a tour of Pacific nations allied to China just before a mid-August visit to Beijing by eight Solomons Islands’ ministers and the prime minister’s private secretary.

Before making a final decision on whether the country will shift recognition to China, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare will review four reports — the cross party task force report, a report from the parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee, a report from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, and a report from the Prime Minister’s office.

The parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing from Sept. 4-5, where representatives from private groups voiced support for maintaining formal ties with Taiwan.

Based on the schedule set by the committee, opinions will continue to be collected until the end of September and the committee is expected to submit a report on ties with Taiwan to parliament by the end of October.

Although the parliament of the Solomon Islands adjourned Thursday and will not return until Nov. 18, Peter Kenilorea, head of the foreign affairs committee, decided to hold an extra hearing on the issue Friday, to which representatives from the private sector were invited.

Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele arrived in Taiwan on Sunday with a four-member delegation for a five-day visit. He remained tight-lipped amid rumors that the Pacific island country will soon switch diplomatic recognition to Beijing.

With Sogavare scheduled to depart for the General Assembly of the United Nations on Sept. 21 and expected to meet with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, pro-China Solomon lawmakers expressed hope that the prime minister will make a decision on ties with Taiwan before his departure in a bid to avoid any attempt by Washington to exert influence.

In an interview with CNA, Catherine Ebert-Gray, the U.S. Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, said Wednesday that Taiwan has been an exceptional partner to the Solomon Islands, and Washington supports the continuation of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel