24 Jul 2018

China-Taiwan Pacific rivalry resumes fiercely: academic

12:26 pm on 24 July 2018

The United States should work with Taiwan and Palau to resist Chinese influence in the region, an academic says.

Last week a tourism operator in Palau told its congress it had stopped flights from China after Beijing imposed a ban on its tourism agencies visiting the country.

The move was the latest development in a diplomatic struggle between China and Taiwan and its diplomatic allies in the Pacific.

A Palau Pacific Airways plane parked in Hong Kong.

A Palau Pacific Airways plane parked in Hong Kong. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Taiwan Strategy Research Association's Fabrizio Bozzato said despite the financial losses suffered by the company, it was unlikely to shift Palau's allegiances.

He said a bullish China may have miscalculated how vulnerable Palau is.

The latest development in Palau showed "that the diplomatic rivalry between mainland China and Taiwan has resumed fiercely", he said.

"It would be an intelligent move for Washington to assist Taiwan and Palau with resisting the Chinese pressure."

However, he said because of Palau's Compact of Free Association agreement with the US, it was unlikely to be influenced by China.

Mr Bozzato said Palau had maintained a reputation as a tourist destination and enjoyed international praise because of its promotion of conservation.

The capital of Palau, Koror.

The capital of Palau, Koror. Photo: Binter via wikicommons

Palau's ambassador to Taiwan Dilmei Louisa Olkeriil told newspaper Focus Taiwan on Monday that most of Palau's people support diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

She said breaking ties would be difficult because both countries promote democracy and hospitals in Taiwan have saved the lives of thousands of Palauans.

The South Pacific is the only region where Taiwan has maintained all of its diplomatic allies, which include Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

In May both the Dominican Republic and the West African country Burkina Faso cut ties with Taiwan in a bid for favour with China.

Mr Bozzato said of Taiwan's Pacific allies, the Solomon Islands faced the greatest threat from China.

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