Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
Tuvalu Foreign Minister Simon Kofe says his country’s ties with Taiwan are “the strongest they’ve ever been”. Photo: Reuters

Tuvalu rejects Chinese firms’ offer to build islands, stands with Taiwan

  • Relations between Pacific nation and Taipei ‘strongest they’ve ever been’, Foreign Minister Simon Kofe says
  • Country is working to set up a group to unite Taiwan’s remaining allies in Pacific, he says

Tuvalu has rejected offers from mainland Chinese companies to build artificial islands to help it cope with rising sea levels, an approach viewed as undermining Taiwan’s influence in the region, the South Pacific nation said on Thursday.

Foreign Minister Simon Kofe expressed support for Taiwan and said his country was working to set up a group to unite the self-ruled island’s remaining four allies in the Pacific.

“Tuvalu and Taiwan diplomatic ties are the strongest they’ve ever been,” he said in Taipei.

“We believe in the power of grouping together and collaborating,” he said, referring to the Marshall Islands, Palau and Nauru.

“Together with our partners, we will be able to counter the influence from mainland China.”

Tuvalu Foreign Minister Simon Kofe says the country will work with its Pacific partners “to counter the influence from mainland China”. Photo: EPA-EFE
The show of support provides some relief for Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who is seeking re-election in January and has seen seven countries drop Taiwan as a diplomatic ally since she took office in 2016.
Tuvalu’s support comes just two months after fellow Pacific island nations Kiribati and Solomon Islands switched their diplomatic recognition to Beijing.

Beijing has in recent months stepped up a campaign to peel away more allies of Taiwan, which Beijing considers its territory and therefore ineligible for state-to-state relations.

Taiwan said Kiribati was lured by Beijing with the promise of planes, while the Solomons was offered development funds.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen is seeking re-election in January. Photo: EPA-EFE

Kofe said mainland Chinese companies had recently approached local communities to help support a US$400 million government plan to build artificial islands, saying he believed the companies were backed by the Chinese government.

“It’s a no from us,” Kofe said. “We are hearing a lot of information about debt, China buying our islands and looking at setting up military bases in our part of the world. Those are things that are concerning to us.”

“We hope those are lessons for other countries to be careful and be conscious of the negative impacts … It’s not good for our Pacific fellow brothers and sisters.”

China’s moves to expand its influence in the Pacific have alarmed the United States and its allies. Photo: AFP

China’s moves to expand its influence in the Pacific have alarmed the United States and its allies, including Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The group has dominated the strategic waters of the small developing nations since World War Two and are pushing back against Beijing.

The premier of the Solomon’s Malaita province said on Thursday that the US and its regional allies had pledged to develop a deep-sea port and would be invited to patrol its territory, creating a beachhead against increased investment from Beijing.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Tuvalu rejects mainland firms’ offer to build islands as it stands with Taiwanvalu rejects China offer to build islands and retains ties with Taiwan