Taiwan cuts diplomatic ties with Kiribati

Taiwan has cut diplomatic ties with Pacific nation of Kiribati(flag left) after pressure from China.
Taiwan has cut diplomatic ties with Pacific nation of Kiribati(flag left) after pressure from China.

Taiwan has cut official ties with the Pacific island nation of Kiribati, losing another ally amid Chinese pressure on the nations that have diplomatic relations with the self-ruled island.

China claims Taiwan as its territory, and says the democratic island has no right to formal ties with any country.

The move comes days after the Solomon Islands cut off ties with Taipei and deals a fresh blow to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who is seeking re-election in January.

Taiwan has lost seven allies to China since she took office in 2016 amid criticism of her handling of relations with China.

China has increased pressure on Taiwan, including with regular Chinese bomber patrols around the island.

China suspects Tsai of pushing for Taiwan's formal independence, a red line for Beijing.

Other countries that have switched sides include Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, Sao Tome and Principe, Panama, El Salvador and the Solomon Islands.

Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told reporters that Taipei has terminated diplomatic ties with Kiribati and will immediately close down its embassy there, days after the Solomon Islands cut off ties with Taipei.

"According to information obtained by Taiwan, the Chinese government has already promised to provide full funds for the procurement of several airplanes and commercial ferries, thus luring Kiribati into switching diplomatic relations," Wu said.

"It is blatantly obvious that the Chinese government, by creating these diplomatic incidents, seeks to manipulate public opinion in Taiwan, influence Taiwan's upcoming presidential and legislative elections, and undermine its democratic processes," he said.

Taiwan now has formal relations with only 15 countries worldwide.

Australian Associated Press