Published on : Friday, July 27, 2018
The tiny island, Palau urged help from United States and Japan as its tourism industry is declining after Beijing Government reportedly barred Chinese citizens from visiting the tiny Pacific island due to its diplomatic links with Taiwan.
President Tommy Remengesau said Palau had not received official confirmation of a tourism ban but there had been a fall in visitors from China. This is one of his country’s largest tourism markets, with one airline forced to suspend operations due to the plunge in demand.
China sees Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though the island views itself as a sovereign nation and is a self-ruling democracy.
Remengesau said Taiwan had already promised to help by increasing flights to Palau and that he had also asked Washington and Tokyo for investment assistance.
Remengesau said that he also planned to ask South Korea and the European Union to encourage more tourists to visit Palau. He ruled out revoking Palau’s diplomatic recognition of Taiwan to gain favour with Beijing, saying “we are good friends … through thick and thin”. Beijing and Taipei have vied for diplomatic influence in the Pacific for decades, with both sides offering aid and support to small island states in return for recognition. The Chinese tourists accounted for 47 per cent of international visitors to Palau in 2016, with Taiwanese making up 10 per cent. However, Palau Pacific Airways said this month it had been forced to suspend flights because of a plunge in Chinese tourists.
China’s growing influence in the Pacific has caused concern in Australia and New Zealand, which have long regarded Oceania as their own backyard. After years of inaction, both Canberra and Wellington significantly boosted aid spending in the region this year in a bid to win back hearts and minds among the island nations.