China Formally Restores Diplomatic Relations with Nauru after Pacific Island Nation Cut Taiwan Ties

AP Photo/Andrea Verdelli, Pool
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Nauru Lionel Aingimea shake hands after signing a joint communique on the resumption of diplomatic relations between China and Nauru at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024.

BEIJING (AP) — China and Nauru formally restored diplomatic relations Wednesday after the tiny Pacific island nation cut its ties with Taiwan earlier this month, in a further move by Beijing to isolate Taipei’s democratic government.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Nauru’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Lionel Aingimea at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, and Wang said the resumption of ties “once again demonstrates to the world that adherence to the one-China principle is an irresistible historical trend.”

Aingimea said Nauru recognized that Taiwan is part of China, despite the fact that the People’s Republic of China has never governed the island and that Taiwan’s 23 million people overwhelmingly reject Beijing’s claims to sovereignty over them.

“We look forward to the practical cooperation that’s going to happen between Nauru and China. The prospect is bright,” Aingimea said.

Nauru’s announcement on Jan. 15 came just two days after Taiwan elected a new president and left the self-governing republic with only 12 remaining diplomatic allies, although it enjoys strong unofficial relations with the U.S., Japan and most other major nations.

American officials expressed disappointment with the decision. The United States has diplomatic relations with China but also maintains extensive unofficial ties with Taiwan, including selling it fighter jets and other weaponry for its defense.

Nauru first established diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1980, then switched to Beijing in 2002, then back to Taiwan in 2005, amid allegations that both sides were paying off or otherwise pressuring Nauruan officials.

China claims Taiwan as its territory and doesn’t recognize its government or its right to diplomatic recognition, participation in global bodies such as the United Nations or any official contact with foreign political entities.

“This policy change is a significant first step in moving forward with Nauru’s development,” Nauru’s government said in a news release announcing the severing of relations with Taiwan.

China has been gradually poaching Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, partly to punish the ruling Democratic Progressive Party that advocates maintaining the status quo under which Taiwan has its own government, military and de-facto independent status outside of the control of the PRC.

Ten countries have switched ties from Taipei to Beijing since the initial election of DPP President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016.

China says that Taiwan must come under its control at some point and has staged military drills around the island to demonstrate its determination.

At the time of the break with Nauru, Taiwan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tien Chung-kwang accused China of purposefully timing the news to the election of current Vice President Lai Ching-te as the island’s new leader. He said China’s authoritarian one-party Communist government’s intention was to “attack the democracy and freedom that the Taiwanese people are proud of.”

Taiwan now has official ties with 11 countries and the Vatican. Seven are in Latin America and the Caribbean, three are in the Pacific islands and one is in Africa.

Nauru’s switching of relations has further intensified the focus on Taiwan’s remaining allies, most of which are developing nations seen as vulnerable to China’s global influence and willingness to offer hefty financial inducements.