China’s carrot & stick approach counter-productive: Palau president

Taipei-Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr. had some strong words for Beijing's diplomatic tactics on a visit to Taiwan and was critical of the carrot and stick approach it uses in trying to undermine Taiwan's diplomatic alliances.

"The relationship developed with a carrot and stick approach is counter-productive," Whipps said at a press conference Monday in response to a question on Beijing's use of the strategy to lure Palau and if Palauan nationals could be tempted to desert Taiwan.

Whipps admitted that carrots can sway people's opinions and revealed that Beijing had told him that the "sky is the limit" on the benefits Beijing could offer should Palau sever formal ties with Taiwan.

"But like I said, if you give me carrots, don't tell me that I cannot see other persons, because we all believe in peace and prosperity for everybody," he stressed, adding that there are protocols to be followed in international engagement.

Whipps recalled that China once used its ability to provide tourists as a way to tempt Palau to choose Beijing over Taipei, sending 100,000 Chinese tourists to Palau a year, but stopped the visits after Palau refused to switch sides.

"If you are in a relationship, I use this example, you don't beat your wife to make [her] love you," he said in describing Beijing's behavior.

On Palau-Taiwan relations, Whipps lauded Taiwan as a "strong partner" in the agricultural, economic, health, and tourism spheres and pledged to continue to strengthen the bilateral relationship.

Whipps arrived in Taiwan on Sunday to launch a "travel bubble," which will allow people from each country to visit the other with fewer COVID-19-related restrictions. He will stay until April 1 and take the first flight under the initiative back to Palau.

According to Whipps, the travel bubble initiative is important as 42 percent of the private entities in Palau had to lay off employees due to the pandemic's impact on the country's tourism industry.

Moreover, Palau had to borrow up to 40 percent of its budget to keep the government operating, he lamented.

Meanwhile, United States Ambassador to Palau John Hennessey-Niland joined Whipps' delegation in visiting Taiwan, making him the first U.S. ambassador to publicly visit Taiwan since Washington cut ties with Taipei in favor of Beijing in 1979.

Asked by reporters the significance of Hennessey-Niland being part of his delegation, Whipps said it showed the close partnership between Palau and the U.S. in many areas, such as law enforcement, anti-illegal fishing and national security.

"As a small nation, we can easily be infiltrated. We depend on our partners to protect us and give us security," Whipps said, without naming any countries.

After the press conference, Whipps attended a banquet hosted by Premier Su Tseng-chang (???).

Describing Whipps' visit as a symbol of the close relations between Taiwan and Palau, Su said the two countries hope to prove to the world that people can still travel and live a normal life during the pandemic with proper management from the government.

He also thanked Palau for supporting Taiwan and its international participation despite pressure from the Chinese government.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel