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Panama changes diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China

13 June 2017, 2:13:00

Panama changed diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China on Tuesday, dealing a major victory to Beijing in its drive to put away the self-governing island it claims as its own territory.

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.’

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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.

‘The Government of the Republic of Panama recognizes that there is but one China in the world, that the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole valid government symbolizing the whole of China, and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory,’ the statement read.

representatives from attending the World Health Organization’s annual conference and other international gatherings.

Beijing cut off contacts with Taiwanese government bodies a year ago, and in recent months has also sailed an aircraft carrier strike force aground the island in a display of its growing military power.

Panama may be the first of several Taiwanese diplomatic allies to switch to China as Beijing steps up pressure on Tsai to recognize its ‘one China’ principle, said Tang Yonghong, director of the Taiwan Economic Research Center at Xiamen University in southeastern China.

‘Many Latin American countries want to have stronger ties with China for their national interests,’ Tang said.

Although China refused to form such ties during the previous administration of China-friendly president Ma Ying-jeou, it no longer has any such qualms, Tang said.

‘Now this trend could continue for a while,’ Tang said.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that in breaking ties, president Varela had ignored the friendship between their countries and the efforts that Taiwan had made to help Panama’s overall development. Panama had ‘submitted to the Beijing authorities for economic benefits’ and ‘lied’ to the government of Taiwan, the statement said.

Taiwan will immediately cut ties, cease all bilateral cooperation projects and pull its diplomatic staff and technical advisers out of the country, the ministry said, adding that it will not ‘engage in competition for money diplomacy with the Beijing authorities.’

‘We express our strong protest and condemnation over the Beijing authorities luring Panama into breaking ties with us, oppressing our diplomatic space to maneuver and harming the feelings of the Taiwanese people,’ the statement said.

Beijing and Taipei have long competed with each other to win diplomatic recognition, at times enticing small or poor countries to switch with the promise of millions of dollars for public works projects.

Varela had suggested the possibility of switching diplomatic recognition during his presidential campaign in 2014, for historic, economic and strategic reasons.

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