Kiribati has become the second nation in a week to drop Taiwan as a diplomatic ally and move toward Beijing, Taipei’s Foreign Ministry announced Friday.
Foreign Minister Joseph Wu announced the change at a press conference, saying that in response Taipei would cut diplomatic ties with Kiribati.
It comes just four days after the Solomon Islands’ government voted unanimously to recognize mainland China over Taiwan, a move which was condemned in Taipei and welcomed in Beijing.
The loss of the Solomon Islands and Kiribati has left Taiwan with only 15 diplomatic allies.
In related development, Taiwan lashed out at China on Friday after Kiribati switched its recognition to Beijing, the second diplomatic defection in the strategically important Pacific in less than a week.
The move is another coup for Beijing just weeks before it celebrates the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
At a hastily arranged press conference on Friday, Wu announced Taipei would immediately withdraw its diplomats and expected Kiribati to do the same.
He said Beijing had “seduced Kiribati to change its diplomatic ties” with promises of investment and aid.
“The President of Kiribati Taneti Mamau and certain people in his party have fantasies about China,” Wu added.
Taiwan has been a de facto sovereign nation since the end of a civil war in 1949, but China still views the island as its territory and has vowed to seize it — by force if necessary.
Over the decades, as China’s economic and military power has grown, most countries, including the United States and most Western nations, have switched recognition to Beijing.
In the last decade, only a handful have remained loyal to Taiwan, largely impoverished countries in Latin America and the Pacific. The only European state to still recognize Taiwan is the Vatican.
But Beijing stepped up its campaign to diplomatically isolate Taiwan after the 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen because she hails from a party that refuses to recognise the idea that the island is part of “one China.”
It has also ramped up military drills and squeezed the island economically. AP/AFP