Solomon ties switch shows China extending its influence in region

Taipei-The Solomon Islands' decision to switch its recognition to Beijing from Taipei showed China was making efforts to impose its influence on the regional power balance, scholars said Monday.

They said as the South Pacific island-nation was situated in a critically strategic position on the "Second Island Chain," which refers to the area in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that acts as a second strategic defense line for the United States, establishing ties with the Solomon Islands indicated Beijing has expanded the battle ground from the "First Island Chain" to the "Second Island Chain" to take on the United States.

The Island Chain Strategy was first mentioned by U.S. foreign policy commentator John Foster Dulles in 1951 during the Korean War. It suggests containing the spread of communism from the Soviet Union and China by surrounding them at sea and demarcating lines of defense in the Pacific Ocean.

The First Island Chain is formed by Japan, Okinawa, Taiwan and the Philippines.

Although the former Soviet Union was the primary target of the doctrine, after the USSR collapsed in 1991, China became the major target.

Earlier Monday, the Solomon Islands' Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement voted 27-0, with six abstentions, to establish diplomatic ties with China. The decision was later approved by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.

The severing of ties leaves Taiwan with only 16 diplomatic allies. It came after months of speculation that the Solomon Islands was considering a diplomatic switch to Beijing.

Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies Professor Wong Ming-hsien (???) said the establishment of ties with the Solomon Islands, which is the third largest country in the South Pacific, showed China's influence is expected to stretch from the Second Island Chain to the Indian Ocean.

Wong said China's efforts to extend its reach is expected to help Beijing take advantage of its strategic geographic position and in turn give it more power when it pushes for its ambitious "One Belt, One Road" initiatives, the main focus of which is investing large sums of money in infrastructure development in its targeted countries.

Wong said China's forging ties with South Pacific island countries are a part of its long-term efforts, adding 90 percent of the Solomon Islands' exports go to China, so both sides have built close economic ties.

The Solomon Islands need more foreign exchanges through its outbound sales so it decided to cut ties with Taiwan and turn to China, Wong said.

Su Tzu-yun (???), a research fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, told CNA that a move by China to lure the Solomon Islands is aimed at undermining Taiwan's government and eroding the trust it has won from the people.

In addition, Su said Taiwan's government should clear its name by getting rid of a misunderstanding that the country has been involved in so-called dollar diplomacy.

The scholar said Taiwan's move to provide financial assistance to its allies is necessary to fulfill its responsibility as a member of the international community, adding that doing so is a way for Taipei to give back part of the profits it has been able to rake in from exports due to a stable environment.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel