The Solomon Islands, one of a small number of countries that maintains normal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, is considering a shift in diplomatic recognition to China, according to multiple reports in recent days. According to Reuters, the country has formed a ministerial task force to study the benefits of a switch in ties to Beijing,
After a series of defections beginning in 2016, Taiwan has just 17 countries that recognize it and maintain normal diplomatic ties, including the Solomon Islands. Under the ‘One China’ principle, Beijing and Taipei maintain diplomatic relations with a mutually exclusive set of countries. No country maintains normal diplomatic relations with both governments.
The Solomon Islands has recognized Taipei since 1983. The ministerial task force studying the possibility of a switch in diplomatic ties returned from a tour of Pacific Island states that maintain ties with China. In mid-August, a group of ministers from the Solomon Islands went to Beijing.
Reuters, citing an unnamed government lawmaker in the Solomon Islands, reported that the country was “clearly leaning toward Beijing.” The Solomon Islands-China Friendship Association, which represents Beijing’s interests unofficially in the country, meanwhile said that the decision could go either way.
Among the 17 countries that recognize Taiwan officials, six, including the Solomon Islands, are Pacific Island states. Earlier this year, U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary for Southeast Asia W. Patrick Murphy, speaking in Australia, encouraged all six to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
Washington, which maintains robust unofficial ties with Taiwan under the aegis of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which marked its 40th anniversary earlier this year, has sought to punish other countries that recently broke diplomatic ties with Taipei. Last year, the United States recalled diplomats from three Latin American countries—El Salvador, Panama, and the Dominican Republic—after they switch diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei.
The Chinese government has not officially addressed the possibility of the Solomon Islands switching diplomatic ties. Speaking at a press briefing on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson simply said that China was willing to have diplomatic relations with all countries provided they respect the “One China” principle.
The Solomon Islands may present and finalize its decision on switching diplomatic relations as early as this week. The task force to examine the possibility to changing ties from Taiwan to China was set up by the country’s Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare after his reelection earlier this year.
The so-called “diplomatic truce” that had persisted between Taipei and Beijing for the duration of the previous Kuomintang government’s tenure in Taipei was broken by China after the election of the Democratic Progressive Party’s Tsai Ing-wen to the presidency in 2016.