The outgoing leader of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), one of the world’s tiniest countries, has accused China of bribing officials and making “direct threats against my personal safety” as part of a bid to take over self-ruled Taiwan.
China later denied the accusations on Friday.
A 13-page letter sent to Congress and state governors, President David Panuelo accused Beijing of carrying out a campaign of “political warfare” that included overt activities and covert actions, including “bribery, psychological warfare, and blackmail”.
Panuelo, who will leave office in May, said China was seeking to interfere in the FSM to ensure that the country would align with Beijing, or remain neutral, in the event of a war over self-governing Taiwan, which the Chinese Communist Party claims as it territory.
The FSM, which is home to fewer than 115,000 people and located about 2,900km (1,800 miles) northeast of Australia, is independent but receives financial assistance and defence guarantees from the United States under a so-called compact of free association.
“The practical impacts, however, of Chinese control over our communications infrastructure, our ocean territory and the resources within them, and our security space, aside from impacts on our sovereignty, is that it increases the chances of China getting into conflict with Australia, Japan, the United States, and New Zealand, on the day when Beijing decides to invade Taiwan,” Panuelo said in the letter dated March 9, which was leaked to multiple media outlets and seen by Al Jazeera.
“To be clear, that’s China’s long-term goal: to take Taiwan. Peaceful if possible; through war, if necessary.”