18 Sep 2019

Solomon Islands yet to confirm China as partner

4:08 pm on 18 September 2019

Solomon Islands is yet to confirm China as a diplomatic ally after ties with Taiwan ended on Monday.

Solomon Island and China flags together

Photo: 123RF

Taipei severed the 36-year relationship when the Solomon Islands government endorsed a report to recognise China instead.

The government had yet to formally sign on with Beijing when the Taiwanese government decided to withdraw its diplomats from the Solomons.

A political scientist at the University of Hawaii Manoa, Tarcisius Kabutaulaka said Solomon Islands was on its own for the moment.

"Solomon Islands does not have diplomatic relations with either Taipei or Beijing at this very moment. How that will change in the next couple of weeks as Solomon Islands establishes diplomatic relations with Beijing and how fast that will happen, is something that we will have to wait and see."

Mr Kabutaulaka said discussions with China would likely wait until the UN General Assembly in New York this month.

"I assume that there will be meetings between the Solomon Islands government and Beijing, or at least two representatives from China. And then, of course, the two foreign affairs would be working together in the next couple of weeks."

Solomons thanks Taiwan

The Solomon Islands government has officially recognised its 36-year relationship with Taiwan.

In a statement, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Jeremiah Manele, said the government expressed its "profound gratitude" to the government and people of Taiwan for the friendly relations and cooperation.

Solomon Islands Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Jeremiah Manele.

Solomon Islands Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Jeremiah Manele. Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Koro Vaka'uta

He said the government would like to thank Taiwan for the agricultural, education, health and rural development support rendered to the children and people of Solomon Islands over the last 36 years.

"On that note, we acknowledge the decision of the government of Taiwan to close its Embassy in Honiara today and assure all remaining Taiwanese officials of my ministry's cooperation in ensuring smooth, transitional arrangements are in place," Mr Manele said.

In spite of the latest change in foreign policy, the Solomon Islands government said it would continue to encourage trade and investment from Taiwan, he said.

The government also assured all parents of Solomon Islands students studying in Taiwan that their Embassy in Taipei had confirmed all were being well looked after.

Despite the statement, no government officials were at the airport as the Taiwanese Embassy staff left the country.

There has been widespread public discontent on social media over the lack of public consultation on the government's decision.

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