This is not the first time the tiny nation located in the western Pacific Ocean has made critical remarks about Beijing. Last month, Ngerulmud seized a Chinese vessel, which it suspected of illegally fishing in its territorial waters.
Palau’s soon-to-be president Surangel Whipps Jr has vowed to stand up to China’s “bullying” in the Pacific. In an interview with The Guardian, Whipps Jr, who served as a senator between 2008 and 2016, said global leaders should take responsibility for the actions of its citizens before saying that big countries want to oppress their less powerful neighbours.
“It’s important for countries to have shared values support each and work together. There is a competition [between the US and China] but that’s their competition. It’s about what we believe. There are thoughts that the ‘United States and China are in a race’, I think what it is really about is freedom and the exercise of democracy and many times, we feel big countries want to bully small countries. It’s important to have a strong partner that is there for us”, the president-elect told The Guardian.
Praise of the United States and Support for Taiwan
Whipps Jr also praised Washington as a reliable partner and thanked the US for sending 6,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Moderna and reiterated support for Taiwan, which Beijing considers a breakaway province. Palau is one of 15 countries that have diplomatic ties with Taiwan and is among 14 nations that recognise the island as an independent nation.
“Palau’s position, as a friend of Taiwan, has caused a lot of collateral damage for Palau. Other countries that do not like this relationship, do things in the international community, like the UN and other Pacific organisations, to try to disrupt what Palau is promoting”, Whipps Jr said, adding that Ngerulmud would continue maintaining close relations with Taipei.
Beijing previously attempted to win some nations to its side, prompting the Solomon Islands and Kiribati to sever ties with Taiwan last year. However, Palau remained adamant, which resulted in China banning its citizens from travelling to the Pacific island nation.
In September, Palau encouraged the United States to build military bases in the country to deter China, which Palau accused of “ongoing destabilising activities”. Outgoing President Tommy Remengesau said the nation is open to hosting military bases, airfields, and port facilities.
Palau is one of a few countries that do not have armed forces. However, the nation has an agreement with the United States, requiring Washington to defend Palau.