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Ties with Solomon Islands stable: deputy foreign minister
9:09 pm GMT+12, 21/03/2019, Solomon Islands

Taiwan's diplomatic relations with the Solomon Islands remain stable, despite rumors that the latter is considering reviewing diplomatic relations with Taiwan, Deputy Foreign Minister Hsu Szu-chien said Thursday.
 
Hsu, who recently visited the Pacific ally, told lawmakers that he believes Taiwan's diplomatic ties with the island nation are still solid.
 
Hsu's clarification came amid multiple media reports indicating that a number of senior Solomon Islands politicians, including caretaker Prime Minister Rick Hou, recently said they will review Solomon Islands' diplomatic relations with Taiwan if elected, raising the potential of a diplomatic switch from Taipei to Beijing.
 
A Reuters report on Thursday quoted former Solomon Islands' Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo, who is contesting the April 3 general election, as saying that “sooner or later, when we see our country hasn't been able to grow out of this relationship (with Taiwan), we are at liberty to review our relations and to explore other avenues.”
 
Asked to comment, Hsu said there have indeed been “a lot of rumours” concerning the ally's diplomatic recognition recently, but Hou of the Democratic Alliance Party (DAP) had explained that they will "review, rather than switch," Solomon Islands' diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
 
Hsu also said during his meeting with Hou earlier this month that they re-affirmed the friendly relations between the two countries.
 
To further solidify ties, Hsu said Thursday that the two countries recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in which Taiwan will offer "strategic loans," reported by media sources as NT$900 million (US$29 million), to help the Pacific country build a national stadium that will be used for the 2023 Pacific Games, which it will host.
 
During his visit, Hsu also met with U.S. National Security Council Senior Director Matt Pottinger.
 
The meeting was first made pubic in a Facebook post released by the U.S. embassy in Papua New Guinea, as the U.S. has no embassy in Solomon Islands.
 
Asked to comment on the meeting, Hsu said the decision by the U.S. to publicise the meeting "sends a strong signal that the U.S. is closely watching the Pacific region."
 
"The move will surely boost our confidence in solidifying ties with allies in the region," Hsu told lawmakers.
 
The Solomon Islands has been one of Taiwan's diplomatic allies since March 1983.
 
President Tsai Ing-wen left Taiwan for an eight-day visit to the South Pacific Thursday afternoon. She will visit Palau, Nauru and the Marshall Islands to strengthen ties with these allies.
 
Her trip this time will not include the Solomon Islands, which she last visited in 2017.
SOURCE: CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY/PACNEWS


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