US says Nauru switching ties from Taiwan to China ‘disappointing’

US says Nauru switching ties from Taiwan to China ‘disappointing’

BEIJING (AFP): The United States has expressed disappointment in tiny South Pacific nation Nauru for switching diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China, while a de-facto US envoy to Taipei criticised its “distorted” rationale.

Self-ruled Taiwan held a crucial poll Saturday, with voters electing pro-sovereignty candidate Lai Ching-te as the island’s next president.

China — which considers Taiwan part of its territory and has never renounced the use of force to seize it — regards Lai as a dangerous “separatist” and had warned he would bring “war and decline” to the island.

In a diplomatic blow to Taiwan, Nauru unexpectedly announced Monday it was severing ties with Taiwan and establishing them with China — leaving the island democracy with just 12 nations around the world that formally recognise it.

“While the Government of Nauru’s action on January 15 to sever its diplomatic relationship with Taiwan is a sovereign decision, it is nonetheless a disappointing one,” the State Department in Washington said.

“Taiwan is a reliable, like-minded, and democratic partner. The PRC often makes promises in exchange for diplomatic relations that ultimately remain unfulfilled,” it said, referring to China by its official acronym.

In a move that bolsters Beijing’s ambitions in the region, the Nauru government said earlier Monday it would no longer recognize Taiwan “as a separate country” but “rather as an inalienable part of China’s territory.”

Nauru — population 12,500 — is one of the world’s smallest countries and lies about 4,000 kilometres (2,500 miles) northeast of Sydney.

In making its decision, it cited United Nations Resolution 2758, which recognises the PRC as a representative for China in the global body.

Speaking to media in Taipei, Laura Rosenberger, the chair of the United States’ de facto embassy in Taiwan, objected to Nauru’s use of that resolution to justify the diplomatic switch.

“UN Resolution 2758 did not make a determination on the status of Taiwan, does not preclude countries from having diplomatic relations with Taiwan and does not preclude Taiwan from meaningful participation in the UN system,” Rosenberger said.

“It is disappointing to see distorted narratives about UN resolution 2758 being used as a tool to pressure Taiwan, limit its voice on the international stage and influence its diplomatic relationships.”

– Post-poll US delegation –

Rosenberger’s comments came after an unofficial US delegation made a post-election visit to Taiwan to meet political leaders, including current President Tsai Ing-wen and Lai.

The delegation left on Tuesday morning.

Both Tsai and Lai have angered China in the past by defending Taiwan as sovereign, saying it is “already independent” and does not need to formally declare it — which would be a red line for Beijing.

Since Tsai’s election in 2016, Beijing has upped military and diplomatic pressures on Taiwan — maintaining a near-daily presence of warplanes and vessels around the island and poaching its allies around the world.

The diplomatic tug-of-war between Taiwan and China includes offers of generous aid packages and assistance in agricultural and educational development.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday called the loss of Nauru a “surprise assault”, and accused China of offering economic incentives to the South Pacific Nation.