The Palauan president-elect has vowed to stand up to Chinese “bullying” in the Pacific, saying that the archipelago nation is set to stand by its alliances with “true friends,” Taiwan and the US.
Surangel Whipps Jr, 52, a supermarket owner and two-time senator from a prominent Palauan family, is to be sworn in as the new president tomorrow, succeeding his brother-in-law, Tommy Remengesau Jr.
In a forthright interview, Whipps said that the US had demonstrated over the years that it was a reliable friend of Palau, most recently shown by its delivery of 6,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
“It’s important for countries to have shared values support each and work together,” Whipps said. “There is a competition, yes [between the US and China], but that’s their competition. It’s about what we believe.”
“There are thoughts that the ‘United States and China are in a race’; I think what it is really about is freedom and the exercise of democracy and many times, we feel big countries want to bully small countries,” he said. “It’s important to have a strong partner that is there for us.”
The US Coast Guard and the Palauan Maritime Administration last month seized a Chinese fishing vessel suspected of illegally harvesting sea cucumbers inside Palau’s territorial waters.
“This is about securing our borders and other countries that don’t respect other countries’ borders are not acceptable,” Whipps said.
“Stealing and offering bribes, that’s just got to stop — illegal fishing has to stop. As countries, we should also be responsible to our people, and tell them not to go to other countries and do these kinds of things,” he said.
Countries that want to be regarded as global leaders should take responsibility for the actions of their citizens, Whipps said, adding that outgoing Palauan Vice President Raynold B. Oilouch, also the minister of justice, tried to contact the Chinese government about the vessel’s unlawful entry.
“But they don’t seem to care,” Whipps said. “They should take responsibility for their people and it is like they encouraged them by ignoring them. It’s not good.”
Whipps also pledged that Palau would continue formal recognition of, and its close relations with, Taiwan, despite the growing presence of China in the Pacific.
“Palau’s position, as a friend of Taiwan, has caused a lot of collateral damage for Palau,” Whipps said. “Other countries that do not like this relationship do things in the international community, like the UN and other Pacific organizations, to try to disrupt what Palau is promoting.”
“I think that’s the nature of larger nations who want to bully,” Whipps added.
As a pointed show of support, Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) is to attend Whipps’ presidential inauguration and the two administrations have been in discussions over a travel bubble, given low COVID-19 case numbers in Taiwan and Palau, being COVID-19-free.
However, Palau’s allegiance to Taiwan has not been without consequence: The nation is subject to an unofficial travel ban for Chinese tourists, which has hurt the country’s tourism-dependent economy.
Whipps was portrayed as a generational change during the spirited, but comparatively good-natured campaign held over two rounds in October and November last year.
Whipps said that restarting the tourism-dependent economy is a priority, and that he hopes to vaccinate most of the population of 18,000 people by summer.
However, he said that climate change is the greatest challenge.
Most of the population lives close to the water and the country’s only hospital is near the coast, where it is at risk of being wiped out by a typhoon or storm surge.
“We see [climate change] on a daily basis — other people don’t,” Whipps said. “We need to make people understand, especially the larger countries, that the threat is real and we should work together to find a solution.”
Three years after a deadly virus struck India’s endangered Asiatic lions in their last remaining natural habitat, conservationists are hunting for new homes to help booming prides roam free. The majestic big cats, slightly smaller than their African cousins and with a fold of skin along their bellies, were once found widely across southwest Asia. Hunting and human encroachment saw the population plunge to just 20 by 1913, and the lions are now found only in a wildlife sanctuary in India’s western Gujarat State. Following years of concerted government efforts, the lion population in Gir National Park has swelled to nearly 700, according
A rogue overgrown sheep found roaming through regional Australia has been shorn of his 35kg fleece — a weight even greater than that of the famous New Zealand sheep Shrek, who was captured in 2005 after six years on the loose. The merino ram, dubbed Baarack by rescuers, was discovered wandering alone with an extraordinarily overgrown wool coat, and was promptly shorn to save his life. Kyle Behrend, from the Edgar’s Mission farm sanctuary, said that it appeared Baarack was “once an owned sheep” who had escaped. Merino sheep do not shed their fleece and need to be shorn at least annually, as
DMZ SWIM: Over more than three hours, South Korean surveillance cameras caught him eight times and audible alarms sounded twice, but border guards did not notice A North Korean defector wore a diving suit and fins during a daring six-hour swim around one of the world’s most fortified borders and was only caught after apparently falling asleep, a Seoul official said. South Korean forces did not spot the man’s audacious exploit, despite his appearance several times on surveillance cameras after he landed and triggered alarms, drawing heavy criticism from media and opposition lawmakers. Even after his presence was noticed, the man — who used diving gear to make his way by sea around the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the Korean Peninsula — was not caught for another
‘GRAVE CONCERN’: A critic of the government died immediately following his complaints of torture at the hands of security forces, a human rights group said Students on Friday clashed with police in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, as anger mounted at the death of a writer and government critic in a high-security jail. At least 18 police and an unknown number of protesters were injured in the clashes, authorities and witnesses said, amid international demands for an independent investigation into the death of Mushtaq Ahmed. An Agence France-Presse correspondent witnessed police using batons and firing tear gas at students who staged a torchlight march calling for “justice” near the University of Dhaka. At least six students who allegedly attacked security forces with torches were detained, police said. More protests were planned