Solomon Islands Foreign Affairs Minister Jeremiah Manele said that the government will decide whether to switch diplomatic ties from Taiwan to China within the next 100 days.

“It is a sovereign decision, a matter for the Solomon Islands government to look at,” Mr Manele was quoted by the Solomon Times as saying.

Taiwanese President Ts’ai Ing-wen welcomes Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in September 2017 in Taipei (Office of the President, ROC, Taiwan, via Wikimedia Commons)

“On that note, the government is making a comprehensive assessment of the issue so that government, the Caucus and the Cabinet, is well informed on the matter,” the Minister added.

Solomon Islands Planning Minister and former Prime Minister Rick Hou said he supports maintaining ties with the old ally Taiwan.

“Getting on with someone that we are not very familiar with, given what we know has happened in other regions, namely Africa and Asia and a number of countries in the region, I would be hesitant,” Mr Hou said.

The Solomon Islands are one of Taiwan’s few remaining diplomatic allies.

The government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) regards Taiwan as part of its territory and is engaged in efforts to undermine Taipei’s diplomatic relations.

In recent years the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Panama cut official ties with Taiwan and established diplomatic relations with the PRC.

Taiwan currently has diplomatic ties with only 17 countries, mostly small nations.

Upon gaining Independence in 1978 the Solomon Islands sent diplomatic missions to Beijing and Taipei to request development aid. In 1983 it was the first country to recognize the governments of both China and Taiwan. As this was unacceptable to Beijing, the Solomon Islands chose Taiwan.

Over the past decades disputes over financial aid between the Solomon Islands and Taiwan led to diplomatic crises. In 2000, the Solomon Islands threatened to switch ties to China after Taipei refused to pay $40 million in financial aid.

According to Reuters, Taiwan pays around $9 million each year to the Solomon Islands government to finance local projects.

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