Taiwan blames China for loss of diplomatic relations with south Pacific island of Nauru

Taipei claims Beijing offered Nauru financial inducements to make the diplomatic switch

Taiwan blamed Beijing after it lost one of its few remaining diplomatic allies on Monday, two days after the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Lai Ching-te won the self-governing island’s presidential election. The south Pacific island of Nauru said it was severing diplomatic relations with Taiwan and would instead recognise the People’s Republic of China.

“This change is in no way intended to affect our existing warm relationships with other countries,” the Nauru government said. “Nauru remains a sovereign and independent nation and wants to maintain friendly relations with other countries.”

Nauru’s decision reduces the number of countries that recognise Taiwan as a sovereign state to 12. Taiwan’s deputy foreign minister Tien Chung-kwang said Beijing had offered Nauru, which has a population of 12,500, financial inducements to make the diplomatic switch. “Once again it proves that China is trying everything they can – money, diplomacy – to repress us.”

Mr Tien suggested that Beijing chose this moment for the announcement because it was stung by the number of countries congratulating Taiwan’s president-elect after Saturday’s vote. But Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said Nauru had made its own decision, which was in line with the international trend.


“China has established diplomatic relations with 182 countries on the basis of the one-China principle. The Nauru government’s decision of re-establishing diplomatic ties with China once again shows that the one-China principle is where global opinion trends and where the arc of history bends. China stands ready to work with Nauru to open new chapters of our bilateral relations on the basis of the one-China principle,” she said.

Nauru’s decision follows a move by the neighbouring Solomon Islands to switch its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 2019. That fuelled fears in Washington that China would seek to increase its presence in the strategically important south Pacific.

Dr Lai on Monday met an informal delegation from the US led by former national security adviser Stephen Hadley and former deputy secretary of state James Steinberg. The president-elect said the visit underscored the core values of freedom and democracy shared by Taiwan and the US.

“Although China continues to intimidate Taiwan with military and grey-zone operations, Taiwan is still able to deal with it calmly and work together with the US and other international partners who support the status quo of stability in the Taiwan Strait,” he said.

Dr Lai won more than 5.5 million votes, over 40 per cent of those cast, putting him seven points ahead of Hou Yu-ih, the candidate of the Kuomintang (KMT), Taiwan’s main opposition party. Ko Wen-je from the smaller Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) trailed with 26 per cent, a better result than most analysts expected.

Dr Lai’s victory makes his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) the first party to win three successive presidential terms since Taiwan became a democracy in the 1990s. But the party lost its majority in the legislative yuan, Taiwan’s parliament, with Dr Ko’s TPP set to hold the balance of power between the two main parties.

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Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times