Taiwan and Kiribati severed ties on Friday after the tiny Pacific nation decided to switch diplomatic recognition, the second defection to Beijing by one of Taipei’s allies this week.

“Kiribati today officially notified us that it was cutting diplomatic ties with our country,” Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s foreign minister, told reporters at a hastily organised press conference.

“Today we are also announcing that we are dropping ties with Kiribati,” he added.

The switch is another coup for Beijing just weeks before it celebrates the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

On Monday, Taiwan announced it was cutting ties with another Pacific nation – the Solomon Islands – after learning its cabinet had voted in favour of changing its diplomatic recognition to Beijing.

Wu hit out at Kiribati’s decision on Friday, calling it “deeply regrettable”, adding all bilateral cooperation and aid projects would be immediately halted. Taiwanese diplomats would be withdrawn from Kiribati, whose envoys would be expected to do the same.

Kiribati’s defection leaves Taiwan more isolated than ever with just 15 nations left that recognise it.

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the country “highly appreciates” Kiribati’s decision.

When asked if China had promised investment to Kiribati if it cut ties with Taipei, Geng said people in Taiwan had used the same words regarding the Solomon Islands to “create confusion and distort the facts”.

“Those who are accustomed to buying diplomatic allies with money may not understand that principles cannot be bought and trust cannot be bought,” Geng said. (AFP)

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Last updated: 2019-09-20 HKT 16:36