Koror (Pacific Note)-- A senior United States official said on Friday that Palau’s relationship with Taiwan is valuable in keeping stability in the region.
China’s growing influence in the Pacific has been a cause of concern with both Beijing and Taipei vying for diplomatic influence in the region for years through the offer of aids and support to island nations.
“It must be said that the effort of China to change that status quo is not helping that relationship across the straits and it is contributing to tensions, friction, and potentially could be a source of instability. So when we hear the leadership talk about maintaining the status quo, we welcome that. We think that’s quite important,” said W. Patrick Murphy, Principal Deputy Assistant U.S. Secretary of State in an interview with the media on Friday.
Palau is one of the countries that recognize Taiwan and has a diplomatic relationship with it.
China sees Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though the island views itself as a sovereign nation and is a self-ruling democracy.
Murphy met with Palau government officials to mark the Compact Review Agreement coming into force as well as to stress the importance of defense relationship and commitments.
Although Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. has ruled out switching diplomatic relationship from Taiwan to China, several politicians in Palau are very vocal about its support of China.
Last week, Palau House Speaker Sabino Anastacio, a major supporter of China, was quoted as saying in news report that Palau will switch diplomatic ties to China within two years.
China has also been accused of “weaponizing” tourism – prohibiting tour groups from visiting Palau because of its support for Taiwan.
Asked for his views on Palau’s diplomatic ties with Taiwan vis-à-vis China, Murphy said that the United States respects the
sovereignty and independence of countries.
Taiwan has formal relations with only 17 countries after El Salvador ended its previous diplomatic ties with Taipei in favor of Beijing.
The US has earlier accused China of destabilizing cross-straits relations following El Salvador’s switch to China.
“The United States appreciates hearing from leadership like here in Palau as elsewhere that it’s important to maintain the status quo,” Murphy further said. He added that “For some 40 years the status quo has provided stability and predictability in the cross-straits area between China and Taiwan.”
Despite the push by some Palau politicians to switch to China, Remengesau and other small island nations voiced their strong support for Taiwan during the 73rd UN General Assembly,
"We urge the United Nations to seek a solution to include Taiwan in all its processes including the ICAO and the WHO. My government firmly believes that Taiwan's inclusion in the UN system will greatly benefit the UN's work and its sustainable development agenda towards 2030 and beyond,” Remengesau said in a speech to the UN General Assembly.
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photo of W. Patrick Murphy, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State