Solomon Islands: Taiwan warns of China ‘debt trap’

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Taiwan has warned the Solomon Islands that switching diplomatic ties to China could put the country at risk of falling into a debt trap.

The Pacific island nation has indicated that it plans to sever ties with Taipei and align itself with Beijing.

“China’s expansion in the Pacific has made many countries to fall into the trap of debt,” Joanne Ou, spokeswoman for Taiwan’s foreign ministry, told Reuters on Friday.

“The flashy infrastructure that China promised has caused serious damage to the local ecosystem and infringed their sovereignty,” she said.

The leader of a high-level government team examining the diplomatic issue said on Wednesday that the Solomon Islands would switch its allegiance.

Beijing is offering to bankroll a development fund to replace an annual $8.5m fund currently backed byTaiwan, said lawmaker Peter Shanel Agovaka.

The switch, which needs to be formalised, would be a prize for China in its campaign to lure allies away from Taiwan, which it considers a wayward province with no right to state-to-state ties.

Only 17 countries now recognise the island, which has evolved into one of Asia’s most vibrant democracies.

It would also deal a fresh blow to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, who is seeking re-election in January amid criticism over her handling of Beijing, as tensions rise across the strait. Tsai has lost five diplomatic allies to Beijing since she came into office in 2016.

China and Taiwan have fought a tug-of-war for diplomatic recognition in the South Pacific for decades, with some island nations switching allegiances for financial gain and in return being given support in international forums like the United Nations.

 

 

Zainab Sa’id