Vice President Mike Pence canceled plans to visit the Solomon Islands this week after the country switched its allegiance from sovereign Taiwan to China, according to a report.
Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare had asked Pence in July for a meeting, which was to have taken place on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York or later in Washington, according to Reuters.
“But the decision by the Solomon Islands to change its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China has consequences. They’re hurting a historically strong relationship by doing this,” the official told the outlet. “It’s a setback, and it’s prioritizing short-term gain with China over long-term commitment with the U.S.”
The U.S. does not have a formal diplomatic relationship with Taiwan but maintains a robust unofficial relationship that includes selling arms to ensure it can defend itself against China in the case of an invasion. The Trump administration has also stepped up its support rhetorically and materially to Taiwan.
China has increased its efforts since 2016 to suffocate Taiwan diplomatically by using its growing global clout to ban the self-ruled island from participating in international fora, to prevent international and even American businesses from recognizing it as a country, and to wean away remaining diplomatic allies. China insists that a country that has diplomatic relations with Taiwan cannot have diplomatic relations with China as part of its “One China” policy.
The Solomon Islands was the sixth country to switch allegiance to China since 2016, according to Reuters. Taiwan currently has 16 formal allies.
The Solomons is a former British protectorate that is home to about 600,000 people and had been the largest of the Taiwan-aligned Pacific countries, according to the report.
Sogavare had sent Pence a letter, saying he was “favorably disposed” to ask his Cabinet to defer a decision on its Taiwan ties until later in the year, but China had offered him $8.5 million in development funds ahead of that decision, according to the report.
Pence and other U.S. officials have slammed China for using “debt-trap diplomacy” to build partnerships with developing countries, offering them cheap loans with steep terms of repayment and in some cases seizing infrastructure if the debt cannot be repaid.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said in a statement on Monday:
My fellow citizens: just now, we terminated the Republic of China’s diplomatic relations with Solomon Islands. We sincerely regret and strongly condemn their government’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with China.
Over the past few years, China has continually used financial and political pressure to suppress Taiwan’s international space. We have responded to these actions with the sternest condemnation as not only a threat to Taiwan, but also a brazen challenge and detriment to the international order.
For years, Taiwan’s attitude towards its diplomatic allies has been one of sincere friendship. We spare no effort and treat our allies with sincerity. However, in the face of China’s interference and suppression, we will not stand to be threatened, nor will we be subjected to ceaseless demands.
I want to emphasize that Taiwan will not engage in dollar diplomacy with China in order to satisfy unreasonable demands. This is not how Taiwan approaches its diplomacy, not to mention the fact that China’s promises of financial assistance often come up empty. Taiwan’s contributions to Solomon Islands, particularly in medicine, agriculture, education, and culture, cannot be measured in dollars.
Beginning tomorrow, we will close our embassy in Solomon Islands and recall all technical and medical mission personnel stationed there. I want to thank them for fighting bravely to the last for our diplomatic relationship. It is indeed regrettable that their unfinished cooperative projects must come to an end, and it is a loss for Solomon Islands people. However, this is the choice that Solomon Islands’ government has made, leaving us with no other option but to respond in this way.
Although we have terminated diplomatic ties, I want to extend my gratitude to the people of Solomon Islands for their support for Taiwan, and to our allies in the international community who sought to help mediate this issue. Changes in the diplomatic arena are indeed challenging, but Taiwan still has many friends around the world willing to stand with us, and we are not alone.
People around the world know that by luring away our diplomatic allies and stepping up pressure on us across the board over the past few years, China has sought to damage the morale of the Taiwanese people and force Taiwan to accept “one country, two systems.”
I am confident that the 23 million people of Taiwan have this to say in response: not a chance.
Though Taiwan’s political parties may hold different views regarding cross-strait relations, we share an overwhelming consensus in rejecting “one country, two systems.”
Though China may be able to temporarily stir up opinions by poaching our diplomatic allies, we believe that these actions are ultimately only detrimental to the development of cross-strait relations.
China’s actions, whether as a retaliation to our procurement of F-16 fighter jets or as an attempt to divert attention from Hong Kong’s anti-extradition bill protests, will not impact the Taiwanese people’s convictions or solidarity.
Through our actions, Taiwan will show the world that we will not give up on strengthening our national defense capabilities, nor will we abandon our commitment to democracy or our support for Hong Kong.
We will continue to actively engage with the world; the Republic of China (Taiwan) will continue to make friends across the globe, whether diplomatic allies or not, just like any other sovereign nation.
My fellow citizens, pressure from China will only continue to grow in the coming months. But the Taiwanese people will not yield, nor will China’s attempts to affect Taiwan’s politics or elections succeed.
In the face of China’s bullying, Taiwan must remain courageous and united. We must continue to engage with the world. There is no recourse, and we can neither shrink nor compromise. We must face the world with solidarity and walk our own path.
Follow Breitbart News’ @Kristina_Wong.