The outgoing president of Micronesia has accused China of partaking in “political warfare” within the Pacific, in an explosive letter advocating for the the dissolution of diplomatic ties with Beijing.
Within the 13-page letter, which CNN has obtained, David Panuelo alleges China is getting ready to invade the self-ruled island of Taiwan, and has engaged in bribery, political interference and even “direct threats” to make sure the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) stays impartial within the occasion of conflict.
China dismissed the letter’s contents as “smears and accusations.”
“I want to emphasize that China has all the time upheld the equality of all international locations – regardless of their measurement – and has all the time revered how Micronesia chooses its personal growth, based mostly by itself circumstances,” Chinese language Overseas Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning stated Friday in a daily press briefing.
Panuelo, who has beforehand been vital of Beijing’s actions within the Pacific area, revealed he had thought-about switching diplomatic recognition to Taipei.
“China is in search of to make sure that, within the occasion of a conflict in our Blue Pacific continent between themselves and Taiwan, that the FSM is, at greatest, aligned with the PRC (China) as an alternative of america, and, at worst, that the FSM chooses to ‘abstain’ altogether,” he wrote.
The Chinese language Communist Get together claims the self-ruling democracy of Taiwan as its personal territory – regardless of having by no means ruled it – and has refused to rule out the usage of drive to “reunify” it with mainland China.
Panuelo additionally accused China of “political warfare” in his nation, which he claimed included overt actions – comparable to political alliances, financial measures and public propaganda – and clandestine acts comparable to “bribery, psychological warfare, and blackmail”.
“One of many causes that China’s political warfare is profitable in so many arenas is that we’re bribed to be complicit, and bribed to be silent. That’s a heavy phrase, however it’s an correct description regardless,” he wrote within the letter.
CNN has reached out to Panuelo an Taiwan’s international ministry for remark.
Panuelo, whose time period in workplace is about to run out in two months after dropping his seat within the current basic election, has been president of Micronesia since 2019.
He has beforehand spoken out on China’s rising affect within the South Pacific, together with warning in opposition to Beijing’s proposal of a sweeping regional safety take care of 10 Pacific Island nations.
Final Might, in a separate letter to 22 Pacific leaders seen by CNN, Panuelo stated the draft proposal was meant to shift Pacific Island nations with diplomatic ties to China “very shut into Beijing’s orbit.”
He argued that along with impacting the sovereignty of Pacific Island nations, signing such an settlement may deliver a couple of new “Chilly Struggle” amid tensions between China and the West.
China finally failed in its bid to strike the safety pact with Pacific Island nations.
The discharge of Panuelo’s newest – and most explosive – letter comes amid heightened concern from regional powers over Beijing’s ambitions within the Indo-Pacific.
The Pacific Islands’ location, largely to the northeast of Australia, means the island nations have lengthy been seen by navy strategists as an important connecting thread between the US territory of Guam and US-allied Australia.
Each the US and Australia are cautious of a China that has grown more and more assertive within the South China Sea extending its attain additional west into Pacific waters, together with towards the FSM, an archipelago of greater than 600 islands.
In the meantime, the island nations themselves – usually extra involved in regards to the ravages of local weather change than geopolitics – have been cautious of being seen as pawns in an incredible energy wrestle.
China’s curiosity in constructing rapport with the Pacific Islands international locations is just not new.
Within the early 2000s, because the US was turning its consideration towards perceived threats within the Center East, a newly outward-looking China was beginning on a path to change into an financial and diplomatic associate for Pacific island international locations.
A focus of Beijing’s outreach was to win pals away from Taiwan, which is now solely formally acknowledged by 4 of 14 South Pacific nations, after the Solomon Islands and Kiribati switched allegiance to China in 2019.
In recent times, as Beijing has pursued a extra assertive international coverage and expanded growth funding globally in a bid to reinforce its worldwide sway, its visibility within the Pacific Islands, too, has grown.
China has backed broadly publicized initiatives in some Pacific Island international locations – a nationwide sports activities stadium to host the Pacific Video games within the Solomon Islands, highways in Papua New Guinea, bridges in Fiji – and despatched high-level envoys to the area, together with two visits from Chinese language chief Xi Jinping, as soon as in 2014 and once more in 2018.
It’s additionally change into a serious buying and selling associate for Pacific Island economies.
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