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Pence rebuffs Solomons PM after nation cuts ties with Taiwan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has canceled plans to meet with the leader of the Solomon Islands to discuss development partnerships after the Pacific island cut ties with Taiwan in favor of China this week, a senior U.S. official said on Tuesday.

Mike Pence

The Solomon Islands was the sixth country to switch allegiance to China since 2016. Self-ruled Taiwan has accused China, which claims Taiwan as its territory, of trying to meddle in its upcoming elections.

Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare had asked Pence in July for a meeting, the senior administration official told Reuters, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The meeting was to have taken place this month on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, or afterward in Washington.

“But the decision by the Solomon Islands to change its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China has consequences. They’re hurting a historically strong relationship by doing this,” the official said.

“It’s a setback, and it’s prioritizing short-term gain with China over long-term commitment with the U.S.,” the official said.

The United States — which has a fraught relationship with China over trade, defense and technology issues — upholds what is known as the “one-China” policy, officially recognizing Beijing and not Taipei, while assisting Taiwan.

Washington and Beijing are embroiled in a trade war, slapping tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of each other’s goods. The United States is also pushing to restrict Chinese state-owned telecom companies over concerns about espionage — allegations rejected by China.