The U.S State Department said Friday that China’s move to lure Taiwan’s allies to switch recognition from Taipei to Beijing has been “harmful” to regional stability.
“China’s active campaign to alter the cross-Strait status quo, including by enticing countries to discontinue diplomatic ties with Taiwan, are harmful and undermine regional stability,” a spokesperson with the State Department told CNA through an email statement.
“They undermine the framework that has enabled peace, stability, and development for decades,” the spokesperson said.
Earlier in the day, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu announced the country was cutting diplomatic ties with Kiribati. The announcement came after the central Pacific nation decided to switch diplomatic allegiance from Taipei to Beijing.
Kiribati was the second diplomatic ally Taiwan lost in a week before the Solomon Islands on Monday bowed to China’s lure. The loss of the two allies leaves Taiwan with only 15 diplomatic allies worldwide. The U.S. Statement Department expressed deep disappointment with Kiribati’s decision.
“Countries that establish closer ties to China primarily out of the hope or expectation that such a step will stimulate economic growth and infrastructure development often find themselves worse off in the long run,” the spokesperson said.
In the statement, the United States continued to describe Taiwan as a democratic success story, a reliable partner, and a force for good in the international society.
The spokesperson said Washington supports the status quo in relations across the Taiwan Strait, which includes Taiwan’s diplomatic ties and international space, which has been critical to maintaining peace and stability in the region.
Echoing the Statement Department’s spokesperson, a senior official from the White House told CNA that Kiribati’s switching of recognition from Taipei to Beijing is unlikely to contribute to peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, and “will not help the I-Kiribati as they work to build a sustainable and sovereign future for their country.”
In response to China’s luring of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, Douglas Paal, a former director of the American Institute in Taiwan’s (AIT’s) Taipei office, said China’s latest campaign matched the other elements of its strategy towards Taipei, which have imposed pressure on Taiwan economically, militarily, and politically.
Paal, who is currently the distinguished fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said it seemed Beijing has a “perverse logic,” believing such a diplomatic maneuvering will help pro-China opposition Kuomintang (MKT) and hurt the pro-dependence ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
“But it does not translate across the strait. It hurts all Taiwanese,” Paal said.
Paal added that China’s action showed the ineffectiveness of current U.S. and Australian policy toward the Pacific islands, urging U.S. policy makers to regroup and think through the elements of their policies.
Meanwhile, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas said in a Twitter message that the U.S. will continue to support Taiwan, a democratic partner of his country. Cotton also called for the U.S. Senate to pass the Taiwan Assurance Act initiated by him, saying the act stipulates Beijing’s efforts to exclude Taipei from the international community are a national security concern to Washington.
In addition, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio from Florida also tweeted that he has paid attention to the Solomon Islands’ move and now Kiribati has cut formal ties with Taiwan due to pressure in the past couple of weeks. The senator added that unless China’s behavior is confronted, Beijing will stop at nothing to isolate Taiwan in the international community.
On Friday, President Tsai Ing-wen accused China of trying to interfere in Taiwan’s upcoming presidential election, scheduled for Jan. 11, 2020, by luring Kiribati to switch its recognition from Taipei to Beijing. Tsai said China will continue to seek to suppress and coerce Taiwan in the months before the election in order to influence the outcome.