ROC formally severs ties with island nation Nauru over Beijing contract

Amber Wong, The China Post

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced yesterday its decision to sever diplomatic ties with Nauru, ending over two decades of allegiance between Taiwan and the tiny Pacific island nation. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided to terminate all bilateral agreements and cooperation with Nauru, close its embassy in Yaren, and recall its technical mission,” MOFA spokeswoman Chang Siao-yue stated at a news conference held at 10:00 a.m. The announcement came after Foreign Minister Eugene Chien’s “ultimatum” to Nauru on Monday night, which set a deadline of 10:00 a.m. yesterday for a clear answer from the Nauru government on annulling Nauru President Rene Harris’s decision to switch diplomatic ties to Beijing. “The current Nauruan President Rene Harris was heavily courted and apparently prefers the blandishments proffered by the PRC,” Chang said. “The government of Nauru will bear all responsibilities and consequences of this reckless move.”

She went on to say that the government will not waste taxpayers’ money to engage in a meaningless contest of “dollar diplomacy” with mainland China. According to Chang, Beijing has offered the bankrupt Nauru US$60 million in financial subsidies, in addition to taking care of its US$77 million debt to American company General Electric. “Despite the unrelenting pressure and constant repression by the PRC in the international community, our people and government will continue to strive to expand the ROC’s international space, to safeguard our national rights and interests and the well-being of our people with a firm and pragmatic policy,” she stressed. The diplomatic tug-of-war started last Sunday when Harris signed a communique with mainland Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhou Wenzhong in Hong Kong to recognize Beijing, acknowledging Taiwan as a part of mainland China.

According to MOFA, Harris’s abrupt decision was not backed by the majority of Cabinet members. And the MOFA decided to wait for two days before cutting ties with Nauru under the request of its Cabinet which favored maintaining relations with Taiwan.

Chang reiterated that the MOFA has been monitoring Harris’s contacts with Beijing for the past few months. However, the termination of diplomatic ties with Nauru was inevitable since there was no consensus on the matter in Nauru, according to Chang.

When asked about the timing of Nauru establishing links with Beijing, which coincided with President Chen Shui-bian being sworn in as the DPP chairman, Chang replied that Beijing’s reason for picking such a date for the signing of the communique with Nauru was rather obvious.

Taiwan set up diplomatic ties with Nauru, a tiny island nation with a population of over 11,800 on May 4, 1980. Over the years, Taiwan has assisted Nauru in improving water supply, electricity, and telecommunication systems, in addition to construction of a state-run hotel, public housing and sports facilities, according to MOFA. And a three-member agricultural and technical mission was sent to Nauru since 1992 to help develop its agriculture and aquaculture sectors.