Pacific News Minute: West Papua And Taiwan Also On Agenda For Pacific Islands Forum

Aug 15, 2019

Radio New Zealand reports that Australia has persuaded members of the Pacific Islands Forum to water down references to climate change in the summit meetings final communique. The phrase “climate crisis” has been removed, along with a commitment to phase out coal. While climate change dominated the meeting, other issues came up as well.

China sent a high ranking delegation to Tuvalu to maintain the pressure on Taiwan’s dwindling number of diplomatic allies. Six of the seventeen countries that still recognize Taiwan are Pacific island states. The largest, the Solomon Islands, has established a task force to consider a change.

Last month, the Solomon Islands sent a delegation to a meeting of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, where, according to the Island Sun, Chinese officials said China is ready to start development projects in the Solomons, but only if Honiara switches alliegience to Beijing. And, one official added, the Solomons needs to act promptly because the window of opportunity is closing fast.

This week at the forum summit, the leaders of Tuvalu and Nauru, reaffirmed their support for Taiwan. Taipei’s other Pacific allies are Palau, The Marshall Islands and Kiribati.

Indonesia filed a formal complaint with the Forum Secretariat after the government of Vanuatu brought representatives of West Papua’s United Liberation Movement as part of its delegation in Tuvalu, including Benny Wenda, the Chairman of the ULM. Earlier this year, Vanuatu included Wenda as part of a delegation that met with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. Vanuatu and the ULM demand independence for West Papua; Jakarta insists that the area is sovereign Indonesian territory.