SYDNEY (Reuters) – China is offering to bankroll a development fund for the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific if it switches diplomatic ties from Taiwan to Beijing, a parliamentary committee in the small island nation has heard.
The proposal, which would replace a similar structure set-up by Taiwan, comes amid a global push by Beijing to peel away the allies of what it considers a wayward province with no right to state-to-state ties. Only 17 countries now recognize Taiwan.
China - Taiwan - Recognition - South - Pacific
China and Taiwan have fought a tug-of-war for diplomatic recognition in the South Pacific for decades, with some island nations switching allegiances for financial gain.
John Moffat Fugui, a Solomons’ parliamentarian and head of a taskforce charged with evaluating diplomatic ties, said on Wednesday that Beijing would pay into a fund even though it usually preferred “grants, concessionary loans and sometimes gifts”.
Constituency - Development - Fund - Period - Fugui
“But for you, we will give you a [Rural Constituency Development Fund] for a certain period,” Fugui said, referring to recent negotiations with Beijing officials.
Fugui said the offer would help fill an immediate gap should the Solomons cut ties with Taiwan that date back to 1983.
Taiwan - Solomons - Fund - Budget - Documents
Taiwan has pledged $8.5 million to the Solomons in 2019-20 through a fund, budget documents show.
The Solomons, an archipelago of just over 600,000 people, relies heavily on such payments due to its limited means of generating income, which is largely through timber exports.
South - Pacific - Stronghold - Taiwan - Ties
The South Pacific has been a diplomatic stronghold for Taiwan, where formal ties with six of the 16 island nations make up more than a third of its total alliances.
A report by the Australia-based Lowy Institute think-tank last month said: “Both...
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