SYDNEY - The Solomon Islands, one of Taiwan’s few remaining diplomatic allies, has formed a team of ministers to talk to Beijing ahead of a possible switch in ties that could be unveiled as early as this week, the chief of a parliamentary panel said.
The Pacific island nation has recognized self-ruled Taiwan since 1983 but would be a prized chip for China in its bid to peel away the allies of what it considers a wayward province with no right to state-to-state ties, taking their number to 16.
“There’s a certain thinking with the current government and executive to switch,” Peter Kenilorea, an opposition lawmaker who chairs a foreign relations parliamentary committee, told Reuters.
“The amount of money that has already been spent by the government on this is quite telling.”
A task force charged with evaluating the Taiwan ties returned from a tour of Pacific nations allied to China just before a mid-August visit to Beijing by eight Solomons ministers and the prime minister’s private secretary.
“It doesn’t take much imagination to work out what the task force will recommend,” added Kenilorea, whose panel will review the recommendations.
The task force, set up by new Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare after a general election in April, could present its recommendations as early as this week, parliament schedules show.
The government has said the ministerial group visited only Beijing.
Both the task force and panel of ministers were clearly leaning toward Beijing, said a government lawmaker who declined to be named, but did not rule out the possibility of a surprise.