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China restores diplomatic relations with Nauru after latter severs ties with Taiwan

Nauru cut off ties with Taiwan just two days after Lai Ching-te, the candidate for Taiwan's ruling anti-China Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), won the presidential elections held on January 13. Nauru previously severed relations with Taiwan in 2002 and restored it in 2005.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Beijing Updated on: January 24, 2024 13:22 IST
China, diplomatic relations, Nauru, Taiwan
Image Source : AP Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Nauru Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Lionel Aingimea.

Beijing: China formally restored diplomatic relations with the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru on Wednesday after the latter cut its ties with Taiwan earlier this month, days after the anti-China Taiwanese President-elect Lai Ching-te won the presidential elections on January 13. Taiwan has accused China of trying to isolate Taipei's democratically-elected government as it has only 12 diplomatic allies left.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Nauru's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Lionel Aingimea at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing to mark the resumption of diplomatic ties. Wang said the resumption "once again demonstrates to the world that adherence to the one-China principle is an irresistible historical trend".

Aingimea said Nauru recognized that Taiwan is part of China, even though the People's Republic of China (PRC) has never governed the island and that Taiwan's 23 million people have overwhelmingly rejected Beijing's claims of sovereignty over them, as seen in the recent elections. "We look forward to the practical cooperation that's going to happen between Nauru and China. The prospect is bright,” Aingimea said.

Nauru's surprise decision

Nauru's decision to sever ties with Taiwan came just two days after Taiwan elected a new president who has been described as a separatist by China. His party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), advocates for maintaining a status quo in which Taiwan has its own government and is not a part of China. China says that Taiwan must come under its control at some point and has staged military drills around the island to demonstrate its determination. 

Taiwan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tien Chung-kwang accused China of purposefully timing the news of the recent election. “China’s intention is to attack the democracy and freedom that the Taiwanese people are proud of,” Tien said at a news conference. This left Taiwan with diplomatic ties with only 11 countries and the Vatican.

American officials also expressed disappointment with the decision. The United States has diplomatic relations with China but also maintains extensive unofficial ties with Taiwan, including selling it fighter jets and other weaponry for its defense.

Nauru's history with Taiwan

Nauru first established diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1980, then switched to Beijing in 2002, then back to Taiwan in 2005, amid allegations that both sides were paying off or otherwise pressuring Nauruan officials. “This policy change is a significant first step in moving forward with Nauru's development,” Nauru's government said in a news release announcing the severing of relations with Taiwan.

China claims self-governing Taiwan as its territory and has been peeling off the island’s diplomatic allies, often with promises of development aid. It does not recognise Taiwan's government or its right to diplomatic recognition, participation in global bodies such as the United Nations, or any official contact with foreign political entities.

Nevertheless, it is a setback for Lai, who lost an ally so soon after his victory in the January 13 elections. Ten countries have switched ties from Taipei to Beijing since the initial election of DPP President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016. Nauru's switching of relations has further intensified the focus on Taiwan's remaining allies, most of which are developing nations seen as vulnerable to China's global influence and willingness to offer hefty financial inducements.

Meanwhile, newly-elected Marshall Islands president Hilda Heine has reaffirmed her support for strong ties with Taiwan, according to local media reports. Heine was elected president on January 2 this year by a 17-16 margin over David Kabua, who ousted Heine in 2020 after his previous stint as president from 2016 to 2020 by a 20-12 vote plus one abstention.


(with inputs from agencies)

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