China had threatened to challenge Tuvalu’s entire credentials list if the United Nations Credentials Committee did not remove the Taiwanese delegation travelling with Tuvalu to the UN Ocean Conference (UNOC) in Portugal.
Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister Simon Kofe has spoken out on why he withdrew his participation. He said the move by China was an attack on Tuvalu’s sovereignty.
Tuvalu maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan and recognises it as a country, although Taiwan is not formally recognised at the UN.
Tuvalu had included Taiwanese delegates on its credentials list for the UNOC.
Mr Kofe said China sought through the UN Credentials Committee to have these delegates removed with the threat that if they were not removed, Tuvalu’s entire credential list for the event would be challenged.
“Tuvalu is a sovereign country, and it has the right to compose delegations for international conferences according to what best suits the nation,” he said.
“It is also common practice for countries to include non-nationals in their delegations. Rather than jeopardize Tuvalu’s ability to participate in the conference, I chose to remove the Taiwanese delegates from our credential list while, at the same time, withdrawing my own participation in protest against the unfair treatment of Tuvalu as a sovereign nation.”
Tuvalu is one of those nations where the effect of climate change is being physically seen, and their participation at the UNOC was critical.
Mr Kofe’s protest is registering disappointment at how a big and powerful nation like China used its influence to force an island nation facing a real threat to make changes to its delegation.
“Although Tuvalu does not maintain diplomatic relations with China, we respect all nations, and we expect that all nations will respect us,” Mr Kofe said.
“I believe we must now work in greater cooperation and discussion with the UN and all relevant parties to pave a way forward. I believe that we have to look carefully and critically into any system where one country can dictate the composition of another country’s delegation for an international event.
“Tuvalu is a sovereign country. Although we are small, we should not be treated as a lesser nation.”
Mr Kofe has taken on a new challenge with this development. He said he would start working to bring about a peaceful resolution to the China-Taiwan issue.
“Conflict in our world is never-ending, but we must strive where we can to mitigate tension and promote constructive paths toward meaningful discussion and cooperation,” he said.
China’s move against Tuvalu could backfire – 28 June 2022
Nobel Peace Prize nominee Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister Simon Kofe has pulled out of the United Nations Ocean Conference in Portugal after interference by China.
Travelling with the delegation headed by Mr Kofe were Taiwanese nationals.
After learning that their travel to the conference had been blocked by China, Mr Kofe, who was the highest delegate in the Tuvalu team, opted not to travel in a show of protest.
He arrived in Brisbane in Australia on Monday night, instead of Lisbon.
The Ocean conference is going to be the platform for the Pacific nations to stand up in unison and present their 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
However, missing from the UN Ocean conference will be Mr Kofe.
Perhaps his absence and protest will cause a stir at the highest level and allow the world to deal with China’s tactic with Taiwan.
In the recent whirlwind visit by China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, only those nations who had cut ties with Taiwan were approached for a deal.
If anything, this move by China could also impact on their proposal to the Pacific Islands Forum.
The UN Ocean Conference is hosted by the governments of Kenya and Portugal. More than 20 heads of state and governments are expected to attend the event taking place from 27 June to 1 July.
Representatives from 193 countries will also be joining the conference, including 938 civil society groups, 75 foundations, and 74 universities.
Mr Kofe was nominated for the Nobel peace prize after addressing the COP 26 Summit standing knee-deep in the ocean to highlight rising sea levels.
Sir David Attenborough, the World Health Organisation, Belarusian dissident Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Greta Thunberg, and Pope Francis are the other nominees.