Solomon Islands plans Taiwan ties review

The Solomon Islands (far-left flag) is reconsidering its diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
The Solomon Islands (far-left flag) is reconsidering its diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

The Solomon Islands, one of Taiwan's remaining allies in the Pacific, will send a delegation to study Chinese aid in neighbouring countries as it considers a diplomatic switch to Beijing, its delegation leader says.

The Solomons has recognised Taiwan since 1983 and would be a prized chip should it swap diplomatic ties as China seeks to expand its Pacific presence.

A taskforce set up by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to review the Taiwan relationship will visit the island nations of Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Papua New Guinea, which all have formal ties with China.

The tour will begin this week and include Beijing and Taipei, taskforce chairman John Moffat Fugui told Reuters.

"We will use their countries as case studies to see the kind of development relations they have, the kind of assistance they get, the conditionalities or lack of conditionalities they might have, the kind of governance," Fugui, a government legislator, said in Honiara.

"We will do due diligence.

"It's not either or, it's also both."

The taskforce report is expected by the end of August.

The Solomon Islands is among 17 nations to recognise self-ruled and democratic Taiwan, which China regards as a wayward province.

Although the relationship with Taiwan comes with generous aid payments, the Solomons sends two-thirds of its exports to China and is weighing a change.

Taiwan Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Andrew Lee told reporters on Tuesday all bilateral projects are running "very smoothly" and communication channels with the Solomons are also "very smooth".

"We have shown our sincerity to continue bilateral projects to the new government," Lee said.

China's footprint in the Pacific has been growing, with governments there owing about $US1.3 billion ($A1.9 billion) to Beijing and raising fears in the West that the region is becoming susceptible to Chinese influence.

Although Pacific islands offer little economically to either China or Taiwan, their support is valued in global forums such as the United Nations.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison this month made the first visit by an Australian leader to the Solomons in a decade, and the US has urged Pacific nations with ties to Taipei to maintain the status quo.

Fugui said the seven-member taskforce could leave as early as Thursday and would keep an open mind in meetings with foreign leaders, diplomats and business leaders during the tour.

Australian Associated Press