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Nauru's diplomatic shift: Geopolitical fallout and regional concerns

Reality Check

 , Updated 13:44, 24-Jan-2024

Editor's note: The Pacific island nation of Nauru announced on January 15 that it is severing its ties with Taiwan authorities and resuming diplomatic relations with Beijing, aligning itself with the one-China principle. This strategic move, coming on the heels of Taiwan's recent elections earlier this month, has sparked discussions on the factors influencing Nauru's decision and its broader implications for the geopolitical landscape in the Pacific region. To delve further into this subject, CGTN's Sr. International Editor Abhishek G. Bhaya spoke with Professor Richard Herr, the former director of the Centre for International and Regional Affairs at the University of Fiji and currently a professor of international law at the University of Tasmania. The views expressed in the video are his own and not necessarily those of CGTN.

Edited excerpts:

CGTN: What are your views on Nauru's recent decision to shift its diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan authorities to China?

Richard Herr: I was surprised by the suddenness of this decision. After all, there had been discussions apparently going on for some time about Nauru switching to recognize Beijing. Across the Pacific, this one-China policy has tended to be a rather pragmatic approach.

CGTN: What do you make of the timing of this decision as it comes immediately after the recent elections in the Taiwan region?

Richard Herr: Well, it's clear that the timing is part of the reason why this is cause celebre. This is what has made it a concern to the region, not just in Australia or New Zealand or Washington or the West, traditional Western allies of the region. In Nauru's case, if the negotiations had carried on and finished up with recognition of Beijing four or five months further down the track away from the local election in Taiwan, it would have caused a stir but not nearly the kind of stir it has occurred as a consequence of the close proximity of that cross-Straits rivalry.

CGTN: In your view, how does this latest decision that Nauru has taken contribute to the reinforcement of the one-China principle in general, and what implications might it have for the other three Pacific island nations – Palau, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands – that continue to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan and are among the only 12 such states across the world?

Richard Herr: Even the states that recognize Taiwan have historically got on reasonably well with China at the UN and elsewhere. They've simply not been willing to take sides on the principle, but they have looked at the pragmatic benefits of being aligned with one or the other. And for the smaller states, the pragmatic benefits have been sufficient.

CGTN: In the geopolitical context, many analysts talk about cooperation versus confrontation. But in the context of Pacific islands, it's quite difficult. Whom to cooperate with and whom to confront?

Richard Herr: The islands don't want to confront anybody. They haven't happily taken sides, but they are weary. So, whether the islands get caught up in it, they can't, but the major contestants in that rivalry can do something to make sure the islands aren't pulled apart by their rivalry.

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at opinions@cgtn.com. Follow @thouse_opinions on Twitter to discover the latest commentaries in the CGTN Opinion Section.)

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