24 Sep 2019

Uncertainty for Kiribati students in Taiwan

7:25 am on 24 September 2019
Kiribati President, Taneti Maamau

Kiribati president Taneti Maamau announced on Friday that Kiribati would switch recognition from Taipei to Beijing. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Koro Vaka'uta

More than 100 Kiribati students studying in Taiwan face an uncertain future after diplomatic relations ended on Friday.

Taipei announced it was cutting ties with Kiribati after it decided to switch allegiance to Beijing, just days after Solomon Islands also switched its recognition to China.

The Taipei Times reports there are 110 students from Kiribati studying in Taiwan, 50 of whom are on scholarships provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Spokesperson Joanne Ou said her ministry is discussing options, but in general Taiwan stops scholarships to students from countries that sever ties.

Last week, she said the government would continue to provide scholarships to Solomon Islands students, but only until the end of the semester.

The Kiribati government said arrangements are in place to ensure a smooth transition for its students in Taiwan.

Meanwhile, the government of Kiribati said its decision to sever diplomatic relations in favour of Beijing followed a long internal review and was in the best interests of its people.

Kiribati and Taiwan had been partners since 2003, when Kiribati ended a 23 year relationship with China.

Now back in China's corner, the government of Kiribati says it will soon hold detailed discussions with Beijing on strengthening cooperation in economic and social areas.

Taiwan reaction

Tawan's government will reportedly allocate funding earmarked for Solomon Islands and Kiribati to its four remaining Pacific allies.

Taiwan's Central News Agency reported a foreign ministry official saying the funding would be used to solidify relations with Tuvalu, Nauru, Palau and the Marshall Islands.

Three of the four have recently reaffirmed their relationships with Taiwan but Nauru's new government is yet to declare its position.

Taiwan reportedly fears general elections coming up in Palau and the Marshall Islands could lead to the loss of more allies.