US recalls ambassadors over recognition of China
Washington seeks consultations over moves to break diplomatic relations with Taiwan
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