Kiribati cuts ties with Taiwan, presaging switch to China

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — The Pacific island nation of Kiribati severed ties with Taiwan on Friday, the second such loss for diplomatically isolated Taiwan in less than a week.

Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said that Kiribati had officially notified his government of the decision.

Kiribati will presumably recognize China, which has persuaded seven countries to switch allegiance since 2016, when Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took office.

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Beijing resents Tsai for rejecting its precondition for dialogue that both belong to a single China. It has flown military aircraft near the island and pared back Taiwan-bound tourism to add pressure on Tsai's government.

China claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan and wants the island to reunite with the mainland. The two split in 1949 during a civil war.

"China's attacks on our international space actually will not change the reality of Taiwan's existence or hold people back from pursuing a free and democratic lifestyle," Wu said at a news conference.

He said that Kiribati President Taneti Mamau has interacted frequently with China since his election three years ago, and that China has permeated the country's government in the name of business opportunities.

The cut in ties comes four days after the Solomon Islands, once Taiwan's largest ally in the South Pacific, severed ties with Taiwan in favor of China.

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