TAIPEI – The president of Palau said on Thursday that his small Pacific island nation is committed to supporting Taiwan despite “mounting aggressions”, offering his strong backing at a time China is ramping up pressure against Taiwan.
The Pacific is the site of a diplomatic tug-of-war between Beijing and Washington, and in 2019, two of Taiwan’s then-allies in the region, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands, switched diplomatic recognition to China.
Palau, which has a population of fewer than 20,000 people and is a close US ally, is one of only 14 countries to maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
Speaking at a welcome ceremony during a visit to Taipei, Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr praised his country’s ties with Taiwan which he said were based on a shared commitment to freedom and democracy.
“The people of Palau deeply value the friendship between our two nations and are committed to supporting Taiwan despite the mounting aggressions in our region,” Mr Whipps said, standing next to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.
He condemned Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation” to disarm the country.
“In face of attempts by nations to change the international status quo by force, we must continue to work together and encourage international cooperation in order to ease military tensions,” Mr Whipps said.
Taiwan has faced increased military pressure from China, with Beijing staging war games near the island in August after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei.
China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province to be reunited and says it has no right to state-to-state ties, which the democratically-elected government in Taipei strongly refutes.
Ms Tsai told Mr Whipps he is a good friend. “Taiwan greatly appreciates Palau’s friendship,” she said.
Mr Whipps will attend Taiwan’s national day celebrations on Monday.
In the Pacific, Nauru, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands have, like Palau, stuck with Taipei.
The United States has accused China of enticing developing Pacific nations with generous loans, charges that Beijing denies.
Taiwan provides development aid to Palau, including healthcare. REUTERS