Vice President Mike Pence had been scheduled to meet with the prime minister of the Solomon Islands on the sidelines of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, if not later in Washington, according to Reuters.
But that meeting has now been canceled after the Solomon Islands cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan and pledged allegiance to the communist regime in the People’s Republic of China, which claims the sovereign island of Taiwan as part of its own territory.
Solomon Islands aligns with China
Citing anonymous senior U.S. officials, Reuters reported that Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare had requested the meeting with Vice President Pence in July.
The reported purpose of that scheduled meeting was for the Pacific island nation to seek financial assistance from the U.S. and other capitalist democracies to develop critical infrastructure.
However, China offered the Solomon Islands a loan of $8.5 million for infrastructure development in exchange for the island nation cutting ties with Taiwan and aligning itself with China. The Solomon Islands are now the sixth nation to have succumbed to Chinese demands to cut ties with Taiwan since 2016.
A touchy subject
The meeting between Pence and the prime minister had been scheduled in good faith, “but the decision by the Solomon Islands to change its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China has consequences. They’re hurting a historically strong relationship by doing this,” an unnamed senior administration official told Reuters.
The official went on: “It’s a setback, and it’s prioritizing short-term gain with China over long-term commitment with the U.S.”
To be sure, the issue of Taiwan is a sensitive one, as even the U.S. doesn’t have official diplomatic ties with the island nation, which is located just off the southeast coast of China.
That said, the U.S. nevertheless heartily supports Taiwan’s continued independence from China via trade and the sale of military equipment and weaponry.
As for the infrastructure loan China is reported to have delivered to the Solomon Islands, the senior U.S. official who spoke with Reuters criticized it as a “debt-trap” — a practice Pence has previously called out China over — in which the Asian nation lends money to desperate countries in need in exchange for sworn allegiance and compromised sovereignty.
“Countries that establish closer ties to China primarily out of the hope or expectation that such a step will stimulate economic growth and infrastructure development often find themselves worse off in the long run,” the official said, a clear warning to the Solomon Islands and any other nation facing economic pressure and false hopes from China.
It remains to be seen if a meeting between U.S. and Solomon Islands leaders will be rescheduled or if the Pacific island nation will be left out in the international cold as a consequence of its decision to cozy up to the communists in Beijing instead of the capitalists in Taipei and Washington.