Taiwan Loses Nauru as Ally Days After Elections Amid Tension With China

Taiwan said the pressure from Beijing won’t ‘diminish the will of the people of Taiwan to engage with the world.’

Taiwan lost one of its remaining diplomatic partners to China just two days after its presidential and parliamentary elections, a move that Taipei said was orchestrated by the regime in Beijing to attack its democracy.

Nauru has severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan as of Jan. 15 and will “no longer develop any official relations or official exchanges with Taiwan,” the government of Nauru wrote in a Jan. 15 Facebook post. The small Pacific Island nation of 13,000 people will seek to switch its diplomatic allegiance to the communist regime in China, according to the statement.

Shortly after Nauru’s announcement, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry stated that it would “terminate diplomatic relations with Nauru with immediate effect” to “safeguard national sovereignty and dignity.”

The government of Nauru has requested a “huge amount” of financial assistance from Taipei ahead of the announcement, Taiwanese Deputy Foreign Minister Tien Chung-kwang said at a hastily arranged news conference on Jan. 15. While he declined to disclose the figure, Mr. Tien said the requested amount is “well beyond” the average level that Taiwan offers to its diplomatic partners.

“Once again, it illustrates that China is using every possible way, including money and diplomacy, to suppress us,” Mr. Tien said.

Nauru’s move leaves Taiwan with 12 diplomatic partners, including the Vatican.

Beijing has long sought to isolate Taipei on the international stage as part of its broad efforts to force the self-ruled island to accept its sovereign claim. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which has never ruled Taiwan, views the democratically governed island as a breakaway province and continues to send warplanes and warships near the island on nearly a daily basis.

Amid the heightened pressure from Beijing, millions of Taiwanese voters went to poll stations on Jan. 13 to select their next president. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) candidate, Lai Ching-te, was elected president after claiming 40 percent of the vote.

Mr. Lai’s victory marked a setback for Beijing’s efforts to move Taipei under its control. Mr. Lai and the DPP advocate maintaining the status quo of the Taiwan Strait, seeking a peaceful existence with its giant neighbor but rejecting the idea that Taiwan is part of China. That has drawn the ire of Beijing, which has cut formal contact with Taipei since the DPP’s Tsai Ing-wen won the presidential election in 2016.

The regime has labeled Mr. Lai, the current vice president, as a “separatist“ and warned the Taiwanese people against voting for him in the run-up to the Jan. 13 elections.

China’s Foreign Ministry has lodged “solemn” complaints to Japan’s Foreign Ministry and the U.S. State Department for their messages of congratulations on Mr. Lai’s victory.

China’s military hasn’t directly commented on the results of Taiwan’s elections. Still, on Jan. 15, its Eastern Theater Command released footage of naval combat drills in the East China Sea without specifying a location and date.

Timing

The Chinese regime specifically chose the timing after the elections to target Taiwan, Mr. Tien said, calling Nauru’s announcement “very sudden.” While Taiwan has learned that China “actively approached” Nauru’s politicians and “used economic assistance to lure the country to switch diplomatic recognition,” the minister said they also received congratulations from Nauru officials after the Jan. 13 election.

Taiwan’s presidential office said China’s move is equivalent to “a repudiation against democratic values and a brazen challenge to the order and stability of the international community.”

“Beijing authorities have long exerted constant pressure on Taiwan’s diplomatic space, including repeated false promises to entice Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, restricting Taiwan’s diplomatic space,” office spokeswoman Olivia Lin was cited as saying in a Jan. 15 statement.

Taiwan has lost 10 diplomatic allies since 2016.

“[However,] none of this can diminish the will of the people of Taiwan to engage with the world, nor can it change the fact that the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the People’s Republic of China are not subordinate to each other,” the statement said, referring to communist China’s official name.

An official from China’s Foreign Ministry said Beijing appreciates and welcomes Nauru’s decision.

“Nauru, as a sovereign state, has made the right choice to resume diplomatic relations with China independently,” ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said at a regular briefing on Jan. 15.

‘Rock Solid’ Support

The news comes as a delegation of former U.S. officials visits Taiwan. Led by former U.S. national security adviser Stephen Hadley, the group met with Ms. Tsai at the presidential office in Taipei on Jan. 15.

The U.S. commitment to Taiwan is “rock solid,” Mr. Hadley said, noting that he’s looking forward to continuity in the Taiwan–U.S. relationship under the new Taiwanese administration.

Despite the lack of formal diplomatic ties, the United States is Taiwan’s most important international backer and major arms supplier.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen shakes hands with former U.S. national security adviser Stephen Hadley and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg during a visit to the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan, on Jan. 15, 2024. (CNA Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen shakes hands with former U.S. national security adviser Stephen Hadley and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg during a visit to the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan, on Jan. 15, 2024. (CNA Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

On Jan. 13, following the elections, U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States doesn’t support Taiwan’s independence.

Mr. Lai, meeting with the group later at party headquarters, said he would follow Ms. Tsai’s policy, maintaining the “status quo” in cross-strait relations and defending Taiwan’s democracy.

While the Chinese military has continued to harass Taiwan, Mr. Lai told the U.S. delegation that Taiwan is “able to deal with it calmly and work together with like-minded partners, including the United States, to defend the status quo of stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

“Democracy and freedom are the most valuable assets of the Taiwanese people,” he said. “It is also the core value of Taiwan and the United States and the basis of the long-term partnership between Taiwan and the United States.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

 

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