SYDNEY: The tiny Pacific country of Nauru will retain long-standing ties with Taiwan, its president said on Thursday (Sep 26), a welcome boost for Taipei after two regional nations switched diplomatic relations to China this month.
The small developing nations lie in strategic Pacific waters dominated by the United States and its allies since World War Two, where China's moves to expand its influence have angered Washington.
"Nauru considers its relationship with Taiwan as that of family and we stand with Taiwan," newly-installed President Lionel Aingimea said in an email, dispelling fears of a switch after an election defeat last month for predecessor Baron Waqa.
The Solomon Islands and Kiribati have become the latest countries to switch relations to China, leaving self-ruled Taiwan with formal ties to only 15 countries.
Many of them are small, less developed nations in Central America and the Pacific, including Belize and Nauru.
Seven countries have dropped Taiwan as a diplomatic ally since 2016, though the support of Nauru will stem the tide, at least for now. All four remaining Pacific partners vowing to remain steadfast.
The Marshall Islands parliament passed a resolution last week confirming ties and expressing "profound appreciation to the people and government of Taiwan".
Tuvalu's Foreign Minister Simon Kore told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Wednesday "the government is quite happy to continue our relationship with Taiwan... I don't expect any changes".
Palau President Tommy Remengesau said last week that his country had no plans to switch.
"We are friends with Taiwan because our principles and values are similar, our aspirations for democracy and freedom," he told reporters.
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.
Beijing stepped up its campaign to diplomatically isolate Taiwan after President Tsai Ing-wen's 2016 election because she hails from a party that refuses to recognise the idea that the island is part of "one China".
"The former president of Nauru was famous for being the best friend of Taiwan, going as far as to serenade the president of Taiwan with You're My Best Friend," said Jonathan Pryke of Australia's Lowy Institute think tank.
"The new president was a wild card," he said, adding, "This announcement means Taiwan can take a breath but it is clear that they need to be very diligent in the Pacific."