Taiwan loses another ally as Nauru breaks ties after China critic wins election

Taiwan loses another ally as Nauru breaks ties after China critic wins election

The Pacific island nation of Nauru on Monday announced it would cut diplomatic relations with Taiwan and formally recognise mainland China as an ally instead.

It comes just a day after China critic Lai Ching-te was elected Taiwan’s new president over the weekend in a vote that has been heavily pressurised by Beijing, which claims the island as its own territory.

“The Republic of Nauru will no longer recognise the Republic of China (Taiwan) as a separate country but rather as an inalienable part of China’s territory, and will sever ‘diplomatic relations’ with Taiwan as of this day and no longer develop any official relations or official exchanges with Taiwan,” Nauru’s government said in a statement.

The island nation, which has a population of just over 12,500 people, said it was in the best interests of the country to resume diplomatic ties with China.

China welcomed the move, saying it was willing to open up bilateral relations with Nauru as a result “on the basis of the one-China principle”.

Taiwan swiftly accused China of luring Nauru with monetary support as it announced the withdrawal of its embassy from the Pacific island. China's intention was to "crush democracy", Taiwan's deputy foreign minister said in a statement.

Nauru is the second nation to sever ties with the self-governed island in less than a year after Honduras also switched loyalties to China last spring.

Taiwan now maintains official diplomatic relations with just 12 sovereign states and territories, including the Vatican. China has long waged a global campaign to pressure countries into avoiding official diplomatic relations with Taiwan, saying it will refuse to have any ties itself with countries that do so.

Nonetheless, Taipei retains robust unofficial ties with many major countries, including the US, particularly when it comes to boosting trade. Taiwan is the world’s largest producer of semiconductors crucial for many electronic devices and appliances.

China has lashed out at the US and Canada for congratulating the new president-elect, saying it was “crossing the red line”.

Beijing claims the island, which has been self-ruled since a 1949 civil war, as a breakaway province. It has vowed to annex the island by force if necessary, in a process it calls “reunification”. The Xi Jinping administration has beefed up its military presence in the waters surrounding the island to intimidate Taiwan, and has said it is aiming to have its military ready for a potential invasion by 2027.

Given the cost of having no diplomatic ties with China, most of Taiwan’s official allies are small, poor island nations in the Pacific, Caribbean, Latin America and Southern Africa.

Taiwan had 15 allies as of a couple of years ago, until Nicaragua decided to break off relations in December 2021. Honduras did likewise in March 2023.

The countries that presently maintain ties with Taiwan are: Belize, Guatemala, Paraguay, Haiti, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Marshall Islands, Palau, Tuvalu, Eswatini and the Vatican City.