Pacific nations pressured to drop ties with Taiwan, Solomons PM says

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela. Picture: ZIMBIO

CANBERRA, 14 JUNE 2018 (THE AUSTRALIAN) – Solomon Islands Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela says some Pacific Islands nations are under pressure to sever ties with Taiwan in order to establish diplomatic relations with China.

The comments were made on PM Houenipwela’s visit to Canberra to sign an initial agreement for an undersea internet cable between Australian, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

There is a dwindling list of countries which trade with China but maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan, and in recent months some countries have moved to cut their links to Taipei and adopt a “one-China” policy.

The Solomon Islands is one of six Pacific ­nations that recognises Taiwan diplomatically.

Houenipwela said some Pacific nations were feeling the heat over their ties with Taipei.

“I think in regards to the pressures, I think there are pressures given that I think in the region, I think this is one of the regions that still has strong ties with Taiwan and I think Taiwan is trying to do its best to maintain its relations in terms of its engagement and development assistance,” Houenipwela said.

Canberra stepped in to pay for about two-thirds of the cost of the multimillion-dollar high speed internet cable, scuppering plans for Chinese company Huawei to build the link.

Australia will also help fund the construction of a domestic cable network linking remote provinces to the capital Honiara.

Both Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop downplayed the strategic implications of Australia’s move to fund the cable, but Houenipwela recently said the move was partly in response to Australian security concerns.

“In terms of the security fears … we have some concerns raised with us by Australia and I guess that was the trigger for us to change from Huawei,” he recently said in New Zealand.