TAIPEI: Taiwan accused China on Monday (Sep 16) of trying to influence its presidential and legislative elections after the Solomon Islands cut off ties with Taipei.
The Solomon Islands was the sixth country to switch allegiance to China since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in Taiwan in 2016. Its decision on Monday dealt her a new blow in her struggle to secure re-election in January amid criticism of her handling of Beijing and rising tension with China.
Self-ruled Taiwan now has formal relations with only 16 countries, many of them small, less developed nations in Central America and the Pacific, including Belize and Nauru.
China claims Taiwan as its territory and says it has no right to formal ties with any nation.
Speaking to reporters in Taipei, Tsai said Taiwan would not bow to Chinese pressure, describing the Solomon Islands' decision as new evidence that Beijing is trying to meddle in the January elections.
"Over the past few years, China has continually used financial and political pressure to suppress Taiwan's international space," Tsai said, calling the Chinese move "a brazen challenge and detriment to the international order".
"I want to emphasize that Taiwan will not engage in dollar diplomacy with China in order to satisfy unreasonable demands," she said.
China's foreign ministry said in a statement it "highly commends" the decision to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan and uphold the "One China" principle, adding it was part of an "irresistible trend".
"We stand ready to work with the Solomon Islands to open new broad prospects for our bilateral relations," spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement late on Monday.
Taiwan's foreign minister, Joseph Wu, said Taipei would immediately close its embassy in the Solomon Islands and recall all its diplomats.
"The Chinese government attacked Taiwan purposely before our presidential and legislative elections, obviously aiming to meddle with the voting. The government strongly condemns this and urges people to hold on to its sovereignty and the value of freedom and democracy," said Wu, whose resignation was rejected by Tsai.
"Taiwan has never bowed to pressure from one single setback, and it won't be defeated by this blow," Wu said, urging support from allies in the region to defend Taiwan's freedom and democracy.
"AT ANY COST"
China has been trying to secure allies from Taiwan, and Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, Sao Tome and Principe, Panama and El Salvador had already cut off ties with Taipei in recent years.
Beijing has stepped up pressure to squeeze the island, which have included regular Chinese bomber patrols around Taiwan, since Tsai took office. China suspects Tsai of pushing for Taiwan's formal independence, a red line for Beijing.
Tsai said the Chinese move could be an "attempt to divert attention" from mont