Taiwan and Kiribati severed ties on Friday after the Pacific nation decided to switch diplomatic recognition to China, the second defection to Beijing by one of Taipei’s allies this week.
“Kiribati today officially notified us that it was cutting diplomatic ties with our country,” Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s foreign minister, told reporters at a hastily organised press conference. “Today we are also announcing that we are dropping ties with Kiribati,” he added.
The switch is another coup for Beijing just weeks before it celebrates the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
On Monday, Taiwan announced it was cutting ties with another Pacific nation, the Solomon Islands, after learning its cabinet had voted in favour of changing its diplomatic recognition to Beijing.
Wu hit out at Kiribati’s decision on Friday, calling it “deeply regrettable”, adding all bilateral cooperation and aid projects would be immediately halted. Taiwanese diplomats would be withdrawn from Kiribati, whose envoys would be expected to do the same. Kiribati’s defection leaves Taiwan more isolated than ever with just 15 nations left that recognise it.
With rising pressure many countries including US and most western nations, have switched recognition to Beijing which has left a few countries loyal to Taiwan. The south Pacific has been a diplomatic stronghold for Taiwan, where, until this week, formal ties with six island nations made up more than a third of its total alliances others being largely in Latin America and the Pacific
With a population of 115,000 people in the south Pacific, Kiribati was the largest of Taiwan’s Pacific allies in terms of population after the Solomon Islands, a country of 600,000 people, cut ties with the country earlier this week.
Taiwan is now left with four remaining Pacific allies, Tuvalu, Nauru, Palau and Marshall Islands as well as allies in the Caribbean and Latin America.