Panama switches diplo­matic re­la­tions from Tai­wan to China.


BEI­JING | Panama switched diplo­matic re­la­tions from Tai­wan to China on Tues­day, deal­ing a ma­jor suc­cess to Bei­jing in its drive to iso­late the self-gov­ern­ing is­land it claims as its own ter­ri­tory.

Tai­wan warned that the move would fur­ther alien­ate the is­land of 23 mil­lion from the 1.37 bil­lion Chi­nese liv­ing across the Tai­wan Strait.

In Panama, Pres­i­dent Juan Car­los Varela an­nounced the change, which en­tails break­ing off for­mal re­la­tions with Tai­wan, say­ing in a tele­vised ad­dress that it rep­re­sents the “cor­rect path for our coun­try.”

A joint state­ment re­leased on Mon­day evening in Panama said Panama and China were rec­og­niz­ing each other and es­tab­lish­ing am­bas­sado­rial-level re­la­tions the same day.

In Tai­wan, of­fi­cials in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent Tsai Ing-wen de­nounced the move as a be­trayal and vowed to main­tain the is­land’s sovereignty and in­ter­na­tional pres­ence.

“Op­pres­sion and threats are not go­ing to help in cross-strait re­la­tions. It will on the con­trary in­crease the dis­crep­ancy be­tween the peo­ple” of Tai­wan and China, Ms. Tsai said at a news con­fer­ence. “We will not com­pro­mise and yield un­der threat.”

Panama had been among the largest economies to have main­tained diplo­matic re­la­tions with Tai­wan. The is­land now has just 20 for­mal diplo­matic part­ners, 11 of which are in Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean. The is­land is also ex­cluded from the United Na­tions and many other multi­na­tional bod­ies at China’s in­sis­tence.

At the Diaoyu­tai state guest­house in Bei­jing on Tues­day, Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi and Pana­ma­nian Vice Pres­i­dent and For­eign Min­is­ter Is­abel de Saint Malo signed a joint com­mu­niqué es­tab­lish­ing diplo­matic re­la­tions, fol­lowed by a cham­pagne toast. Mr. Wang said he was sure re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries would have a “bright fu­ture.” Ms. Saint Malo said she hoped the new re­la­tion­ship would lead to trade, in­vest­ment and tourism op­por­tu­ni­ties, in par­tic­u­lar “ex­port­ing more goods from Panama to China.”

China and Tai­wan split amid civil war in 1949 and Bei­jing has vowed to take con­trol of the is­land by force if nec­es­sary.

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