Taipei, Taiwan (AP) — The Solomon Islands switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China on Monday, becoming the latest country to leave the dwindling Taiwanese camp.
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the move, saying the Solomon Islands Cabinet approved a resolution to recognize Beijing as the government of China.
“We sincerely regret and strongly condemn their government’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with China,” Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said at an evening news conference.
There was no immediate confirmation from the Solomon Islands. The possibility of a switch had been widely reported in recent weeks.
Taiwan split from mainland China during a civil war in 1949 and set up a rival government to the victorious Communists in Beijing.
Most countries recognize Beijing today, and China has been ratcheting up diplomatic and economic pressure to woo the remaining ones since Tsai took office in 2016. Fewer than 20 governments still recognize Taiwan.
Tsai said Taiwan will close its embassy in the Solomon Islands and recall all technical and medical personnel stationed there. She said their unfinished cooperation projects would be a loss for the country’s people.
“However, this is the choice that the Solomon Islands’ government has made, leaving us with no other option but to respond in this way,” she said.
China, which considers Taiwan to be part of its territory, wants to bring the island back into its fold under the “one country, two systems” framework that governs Hong Kong and is being sorely tested by pro-democracy protests in the semi-autonomous city this summer.
“As is known to all, there is only one China,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said about the Solomon Islands issue last week.
She described the one-China principle as the right choice that meets the trend of the times. “This choice has been made by 178 countries,” she said.
Tsai vowed to resist pressure from China, saying that the mainland was trying to damage the morale of the Taiwanese people and force Taiwan to accept “one country, two systems” by luring away diplomatic allies.
“I am confident that the 23 million people of Taiwan have this to say in response: not a chance,” she said.