US re­calls am­bas­sadors over recognition of China

Wash­ing­ton seeks con­sul­ta­tions over moves to break diplo­matic re­la­tions with Tai­wan

The Star (St. Lucia) - Business Week - - FRONT PAGE - BY JUDE WEB­BER, FT CORRESPONDENT IN MEX­ICO CITY Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Ed­ward White in Taipei

The US has re­called the heads of its mis­sions to the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, El Sal­vador and Panama for con­sul­ta­tions over de­ci­sions by gov­ern­ments in those coun­tries to break diplo­matic re­la­tions with Tai­wan and switch to China instead

The US has re­called the heads of its mis­sions to the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, El Sal­vador and Panama for con­sul­ta­tions over de­ci­sions by gov­ern­ments in those coun­tries to break diplo­matic re­la­tions with Tai­wan and switch to China instead.

The state depart­ment said the US am­bas­sadors to the Do­mini­can Repub­lic and El Sal­vador and the chargé d’af­faires in Panama had been sum­moned back to Wash­ing­ton for talks, even though the US it­self recog­nises Bei­jing.

“Our three chiefs of mis­sion will meet with US gov­ern­ment lead­ers to dis­cuss ways in which the United States can sup­port strong, in­de­pen­dent, demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions and economies through­out Cen­tral Amer­ica and the Caribbean,” a spokes­woman said.

Panama set the ball rolling in the re­gion in June last year when it sev­ered ties with Tai­wan in favour of China.

The Do­mini­can Repub­lic fol­lowed suit in May this year and El Sal­vador made the switch last month. Tai­wan now has for­mal diplo­matic ties with just 17 coun­tries.

In the most re­cent coun­try to switch sides, El Sal­vador, the de­ci­sion raised wide­spread sus­pi­cions that the move was in part elec­torally mo­ti­vated, said Johnny Wright, an op­po­si­tion leg­is­la­tor. Aid from so­cial­ist ally Venezuela has dried up and “of­fi­cial sources in Tai­wan have claimed that the gov­ern­ment of El Sal­vador sought fi­nanc­ing for the [Fe­bru­ary 2019 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion] cam­paign”, he said.

El Sal­vador’s switch came af­ter its gov­ern­ment “re­peat­edly de­manded large amounts of funds from Tai­wan” for a port de­vel­op­ment that had “tremen­dous debt risks for both Tai­wan and El Sal­vador”, Tai­wan’s for­eign min­is­ter Joseph Wu said in Au­gust. China de­nied the claims.

In Mex­ico, there has been spec­u­la­tion that China could be in­ter­ested in in­vest­ing in in­fra­struc­ture projects to be launched by pres­i­den­t­elect An­drés Manuel López Obrador, who takes of­fice on De­cem­ber 1. He is plan­ning a trans-isth­mus rail route and a train from Cancún to the Maya tem­ple Palenque, both of which have been seen as po­ten­tial tar­gets for Chi­nese in­vest­ment.

The move comes amid a broader push by Bei­jing to in­crease pres­sure on

Tai­wan since the Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive party led by Tsai Ing-wen re­placed the more China-friendly Kuom­intang in 2016. Bei­jing has frozen of­fi­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Taipei, in­creased mil­i­tary ac­tiv­ity near Tai­wan-con­trolled ter­ri­tory and has worked to block the is­land’s of­fi­cials from in­ter­na­tional fo­rums since the new gov­ern­ment came to power.

Af­ter China was ad­mit­ted to the United Na­tions in 1971, most coun­tries switched recognition from Tai­wan to Bei­jing. But the two sides have com­peted for al­lies — typ­i­cally through fi­nan­cial mea­sures — and Taipei’s re­main­ing part­ners are mostly small coun­tries in the Pa­cific, Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean.

A group of bi­par­ti­san US sen­a­tors this week in­tro­duced new leg­is­la­tion aimed at sup­port­ing diplo­matic recognition and strength­en­ing un­of­fi­cial ties with Tai­wan, in an­other sign of Amer­i­can un­ease with China’s bur­geon­ing in­ter­na­tional in­flu­ence.

The law would au­tho­rise the state depart­ment to down­grade US re­la­tions with any gov­ern­ment that takes ad­verse ac­tions against Tai­wan, in­clud­ing sus­pend­ing for­eign aid and mil­i­tary spend­ing. It was in­tro­duced by Repub­li­can sen­a­tors Marco Ru­bio and Cory Gard­ner and Demo­cratic sen­a­tors Ed Markey and Bob Me­nen­dez.

“China’s in­sid­i­ous agenda to iso­late Tai­wan can­not go unan­swered,” Mr Ru­bio said.

A guard shuts the gate of the Tai­wanese em­bassy in San Sal­vador. El Sal­vador has ditched Tai­wan to es­tab­lish diplo­matic re­la­tions with China © AFP

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