U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has canceled plans to meet with the leader of the Solomon Islands to discuss development partnerships after the Pacific island cut ties with Taiwan in favor of China this week, a senior U.S. official said on Tuesday, APA reports quoting Reuters.
The Solomon Islands was the sixth country to switch allegiance to China since 2016.
Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare had asked Pence in July for a meeting, the senior administration official told Reuters, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The meeting was to have taken place this month on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, or afterward in Washington.
“But the decision by the Solomon Islands to change its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China has consequences. They’re hurting a historically strong relationship by doing this,” the official said.
“It’s a setback, and it’s prioritizing short-term gain with China over long-term commitment with the U.S.,” the official said.
The United States - which has a fraught relationship with China over trade, defense and technology issues - upholds what is known as the “one-China” policy, officially recognizing Beijing and not Taipei, while assisting Taiwan.
Washington and Beijing are embroiled in a trade war, slapping tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of each other’s goods. The United States is also pushing to restrict Chinese state-owned telecom companies over concerns about espionage - allegations rejected by China.
President Donald Trump’s administration is also considering confronting China over its detention of some 1 million Muslims in remote Xinjiang province at next week’s U.N. meeting.
Pence has criticized China for what he calls “debt-trap” lending practices to small countries, pushing them into debt and compromising their sovereignty. China denies those charges.
“Countries that establish closer ties to China primarily out of the hope or expectation that such a step will stimulate economic growth and infrastructure development often find themselves worse off in the long run,” the U.S. official told Reuters.
After the Solomon Islands decision, Taiwan has formal relations with only 16 countries, many of them small, less-developed nations in Central America and the Pacific.
The Solomons, a former British protectorate that is home to about 600,000 people, had been the largest of the Taiwan-aligned Pacific countries, with access to airfields and deepwater ports dating back to World War Two.