RNZ 11:51 am on 20 September 2019
Australia says Solomon Islands’ decision to end 36 years of diplomatic relations with Taiwan will not affect the Pacific nation’s bilateral relationship with Canberra.
This week Solomon Islands cabinet voted overwhelmingly in support of establishing diplomatic ties with China prompting Taipei to terminate their bilateral relations.
Honiara has yet to establish diplomatic relations with China, but Beijing has already issued a statement welcoming the move.
Australia is by far Solomon Islands largest aid donor with $AU187 million in official development assistance provided in the past financial year according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
A spokesperson from Australia’s foreign ministry said Australia respected the sovereign right of the Solomons government to make its own decision and that the decision will not alter the bilateral relationship between Canberra and Honiara.
“Australia does not take a position on other countries’ choices about their diplomatic relationships,” the spokesperson said.
Solomon Islands other major donor New Zealand has yet to comment on the Pacific country’s decision to pursue diplomatic relations with China.
A staff member from New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters’ office said the minister had no comment on Solomon Islands’ decision at this stage.
In stark contrast the United States seems to have taken issue with Solomon Islands’ decision, its Vice President Mike Pence reportedly withdrawing a prior invitation to meet with Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare in New York.
Other US Politicians have also been weighing in on Solomon Islands, Florida Senator March Rubio saying on twitter that he would explore ways to “cut off ties” with Solomon Islands.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that when asked on Wednesday whether any funds would be directed to the Solomon Islands in 2020 the acting assistant administrator of USAID’s Asia bureau, Gloria Steele told a budget hearing in the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs that they were reassessing their commitment to the Solomon Islands.
Although not a major donor traditionally the United States had been promising to increase its development assistance to Solomon Islands this year, prior to Taiwan cutting its ties with the Pacific nation.
The irony of the pushback from the United States is that in choosing to end its diplomatic relations with Taipei, Honiara has aligned itself with Washington, Canberra and Wellington in recognising Beijing.