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US Official Had Prior Knowledge of Nauru’s Plan to Switch Diplomatic Ties from Taiwan to China

The United States was aware that Nauru was considering ending diplomatic ties with Taiwan before the Pacific nation officially made the decision in January, as stated by a high-ranking State Department official.

Daniel Kritenbrink, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, informed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 14 about China’s aggressive actions in the Pacific Islands through various means such as foreign aid, elite capture, and propaganda campaigns.
Mr. Kritenbrink highlighted the switch of diplomatic ties from Taiwan to China in recent years by three Pacific Island nations–the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, and Nauru.

The moment of Nauru’s diplomatic shift was significant, occurring shortly after Taiwan’s presidential election, where voters reaffirmed the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s tenure for another four years. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) views the DPP as separatist, hindering its objective of annexing the self-governed island.

According to Mr. Kritenbrink, Nauru’s decision did not catch the United States by surprise.

“We had been aware of concerns within Nauru for some time, and we had been collaborating with partners to address those concerns,” Mr. Kritenbrink stated. “However, in this case, they decided to pivot.”

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In a statement from January, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller expressed disappointment with Nauru’s diplomatic choice and urged all nations to enhance connections with Taiwan.

Mr. Kritenbrink emphasized the importance of countries being cautious and realistic when engaging with China, stating, “China often makes many promises that go unfilled, resulting in negative outcomes.”

Presently, Taiwan has 12 diplomatic partners, which include the Pacific nations of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, and Tuvalu.

Regarding the three remaining Pacific allies of Taiwan, Mr. Kritenbrink noted that the United States is working closely with them to address their needs and prevent any exploitable opportunities for China.

Pacific Island Nations

Back in September 2019, the Solomon Islands terminated their diplomatic relationship with Taiwan after 36 years of alliance.

Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, highlighted challenges faced by the Solomon Islands following their shift in diplomatic recognition.

Regarding China’s policing agreements, Mr. Kritenbrink expressed concerns about the lack of transparency and unsettling nature of these agreements.

Mr. Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, mentioned China’s efforts to sign more security pacts with Pacific nations, citing Papua New Guinea as an example.

In May of last year, the United States and Papua New Guinea (PNG) signed a defense cooperation agreement (DCA), aiming to enhance security collaboration and strengthen the relationship between both nations.
Mr. Kritenbrink confirmed that the United States will soon establish a new embassy in Vanuatu as part of a strategic initiative targeting four specific countries for enhanced diplomatic representation.

The U.S. Embassy in the Solomon Islands opened in February 2023, followed by the embassy in Tonga opening three months later as part of the Pacific Islands Embassy Act designed to counter Chinese influence in the region.

“The Pacific Islands confront substantial challenges related to security and prosperity, including climate change and economic disruptions, making them susceptible to PRC influence,” Mr. Kritenbrink emphasized.

“As Secretary [Antony] Blinken has stated, the PRC is the only nation with the intention and capability to reshape global order, particularly evident in the Pacific region,” he concluded.

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