By ANDREW FANASIA
THE Government will decide whether to switch or not before Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare leaves the country at the end of the week to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
The bi-partisan task force assigned to review current relationships with Taiwan on Friday presented its report to members of Cabinet and Caucus.
“Prime Minister Sogavare wanted a decision to be made early next week so that he can announce it on the UN General Assembly in New York,” Government insiders told the Solomon Star yesterday.
Insiders say the taskforce will meet Cabinet and Caucus again next Tuesday during which a decision is expected to be made.
The taskforce, in its report, strongly recommended a switch from Taiwan to China, saying the country will benefit hugely from such decision.
Prime Minister Sogavare has given members of Cabinet and Caucus the weekend to read the report and make up their minds.
He is also expected to receive a report from his Foreign Affairs and Trade minister Jeremiah Manele, who arrives back from Taiwan today.
The Parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee, which conducted its inquiry into the issue, is also expected to submit its report to Cabinet, but this may be at a later date.
Here are the task force’s recommendations:
In the discussions and observations, the Committee was given two options to look at and offer recommendations. First is to remain with Taiwan/ROC
12.1 Remaining with Taiwan/ROC
If the decision is to remain with ROC, then we have to engage ROC at a level higher than the current one. This means that ROC has to increase its bilateral assistance to Solomon Islands.
ROC has to venture into other areas so that Solomon Islands could maximize benefits from the relations.
However, the limitation that the Committee can foresee is that ROC may not be able to do so as it has reached its limits. ROC’s relations with its remaining allies may change.
Our continued support for ROC UN membership will face setbacks. An increased majority of UN member countries recognize PRC. Not ROC. Our continued support for ROC UN membership will not succeed.
12.3 Challenges for Future engagement
The challenges to our continued future engagement with ROC may be out of touch to the current international norm and protocols which recognize PRC. There is question over our relations with ROC in light of China’s ascendance.
Solomon Islands international relations and diplomacy is at a cross road. We have to make adjustments. Our diplomatic relations must be pragmatic, useful and relevant now and in the future.
Prospects for reunification between PRC and ROC will affect our relations with ROC.
Globally, only sixteen (16) countries recognize ROC. Solomon Islands is the only Melanesian country amongst them. In the last two years, four countries have switched diplomatic recognition from ROC to PRC. The challenge for Solomon Islands is to maintain space and momentum in this Diplomatic maneuvering between ROC and PRC.
The challenge for Solomon Islands therefore, is to maintain its international engagement and diplomacy, relevant and pragmatic, as far as the question of PRC and ROC is concern.
On the reaction from traditional donors as a result of the switch, there will be some impact on the country and hence the need to review and enhance our engagement with our traditional donors.
12.4 Normalization of Diplomatic Relations with the PRC
The second option the Committee looked at was the possibility of normalizing diplomatic relations with the PRC.
By normalizing diplomatic relations with PRC, Solomon Islands will be adhering to the ‘One China Principle’ which means, severing of diplomatic relations with ROC.
In adherence to “One China Policy”, Solomon Islands stance in the diplomatic recognition with PRC, will be in line and consistent with international norms and practices, and UN Resolution 2758 (XXIV) of October 1971.
This will be a political and sovereign decision based on Solomon Islands long term strategic interests and will be decided by Solomon Islands alone. If we are to switch and normalize diplomatic relations with the PRC, it will provide us with the following advantage:
12.5 Opening new Frontiers
Normalizing diplomatic ties with PRC will open up many frontiers for Solomon Islands never seen in the forty years of Solomon Islands independence. When we normalize, Solomon Islands will have a major donor power that it can engage locally with to support its development initiatives and aspirations. This will add value to our existing diplomatic relations. China will provide us with an opportunity to leverage, engage and maximize fully and constructively with our diplomatic partners.
12.6 Enhance “Strategic Partnership” with the Worlds Emerging Super power
Normalizing diplomatic relations with PRC will enable Solomon Islands to leverage and enhance its strategic partnership with the world’s second largest economy.
As a UN member, PRC occupies a pivotal role in the world stage to enhance Solomon Islands UN agenda. China as a UN Security Council member can also be influential in articulating the interests of developing countries such as Solomon Islands. Such interests include: climate change, trade and development issues.
PRC is also a promoter of multilateralism. It is important that developing countries such as Solomon Islands work alongside China to enhance and promote multilateralism in the global environment.
12.7 Support for S.I Long-term Strategic Interest and Development
Normalizing diplomatic relations with PRC as a key development partner, will ensure support for Solomon Islands long-term strategic interest and development, as reflected in the NDS.
With PRC’s potential support for our development needs in various technical areas, it will also enhance our national interests, security, and stability. For the five countries visited, PRC has supported them in many areas. PRC has contributed to their socio-economic development, peace, stability, and progress in their respective countries.
12.8 Maintenance of Global Peace and Security
Normalization of diplomatic relations with PRC will also enhance our collective desire and role to work together with all Permanent Members of the UN Security (US, UK, France, Russian Federation and PRC). This will promote and advance global peace and security as enshrined in the UN Charter.
Solomon Islands can now use its bilateral relations with PRC, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to push through its UN agenda and seek support from the international community in the future.
12.9 Challenges and Responsibility
However, if we are to formalize diplomatic relations with PRC, it also comes with challenges and responsibility.
We are dealing with a totally new entity, which is much larger than any of our existing bilateral partners. We have to manage our relations well, set the mechanisms and framework in place, and have qualified professionals and expertise to manage these relations.
At the same time, we have to review and strengthen our various laws such as: investment, immigration, land, and labor, to ensure respect and compliance.
2. TASKFORCE RECOMMENDATIONS
After weighing the two options, the Cabinet Bi-Partisan Task-force Committee wishes to recommend to the Solomon Islands government, to consider the following:
13.1 Normalize diplomatic relations with the PRC and sign the Joint Communique to establish diplomatic relations by mid-September 2019. This must happen before the 1st October 2019, to coincide with the commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the founding of PRC.
13.2 Cessation of diplomatic relations with ROC and adherence to the ‘One China Policy/Principle.’
13.3 Invite PRC to establish Diplomatic Mission in Honiara and Solomon Islands in Beijing, respectively, to advance the bilateral relations.
13.4 The OPMC to develop strategies and framework to execute the new relationship. These include the following:
13.4.1 Set up of a Technical Committee based in the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet with relevant expertise to manage the transition from ROC to PRC.
13.4.2 During the transition period, the Technical Committee to consult with the relevant Ministries and Agencies, manage the changes and facilitate our interests in Honiara and rest of the country, and in Taipei and Beijing, respectively.
13.4.3 In consultation with relevant Ministries and stakeholders, develop a new policy of “Strategic Engagement’ with PRC,
13.4.4 Review and enhance our engagement policy with our traditional partners, in view of the above changes.
13.4.5 After normalization, institute a ‘China-Solomon Islands Act of Parliament’ to provide legal framework for this new relation.