China encroaching on Taiwan: USCC

TAIPEI, 18 JUNE 2018 (FOCUS TAIWAN NEWS CHANNEL) — China’s increasing engagement with Pacific island nations is reducing Taiwan’s space on the international stage, a report released on Thursday by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) showed.

Since Chinese President Xi Jinping  took power in 2013, China has increased its dealings with Pacific island nations by including them in its “Belt and Road Initiative” — a major diplomatic and economic development policy, the report said.

Such a move demonstrates Beijing’s geostrategic interest in the Pacific islands region, which is home to considerable natural resources and raw materials, it said.

“Beijing’s heightened engagement in the region in recent years is driven by its broader diplomatic and strategic interests, reducing Taiwan’s international space, and gaining access to raw materials and natural resources,” the report said.

The USCC was set up by the US Congress in 2000 to monitor, investigate and submit an annual report to the US Congress on the national security implications of the bilateral economic and trade relationship between Washington and Beijing.

Over the past five years, Beijing has “significantly” strengthened economic relations with Pacific island nations in trade, investment, development assistance and tourism, making China one of the major participants in the region’s development, the report said.

China’s engagement in the region has largely focused on its eight allies, but it has also extended its efforts with countries that have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the report said.

During the tenure of former president Ma Ying-jeou of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), Beijing and Taipei reached a “diplomatic truce” to reduce competition between the two sides in the international area, it said, adding that since President Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party came to office in May 2016, China has poached Taiwan’s diplomatic partners.

Since Tsai’s election, five of the nations’ former allies — the Gambia, Sao Tome and Principe, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Burkina Faso — have switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

Taiwan’s six diplomatic partners from the Pacific islands are Kiribati, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Nauru, the Republic of Palau, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

In November last year, China reportedly stopped state-run tour groups from traveling to Palau in a bid to pressure it into severing ties with Taiwan, but that effort failed, the USCC report said.

“With the end of the diplomatic truce between Beijing and Taipei in 2016, there is an increasing potential of reigniting cross-Strait diplomatic competition in the Pacific Islands,” the report said.

“Growing economic incentives offered by China to Taiwan’s diplomatic partners could cause these countries to switch diplomatic recognition to Beijing, shrinking Taiwan’s international space and expanding China’s presence in the region,” it said. “Such a development would negatively affect US interests in the Indo-Pacific.