Nicaragua pledges to fight for Taiwan recognition on global stage

File photo of Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega. Mr Ortega welcomed Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen on a visit that follows complaints by Beijing about the attitude of US President-elect Donald Trump towards the 'one China' policy.
File photo of Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega. Mr Ortega welcomed Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen on a visit that follows complaints by Beijing about the attitude of US President-elect Donald Trump towards the 'one China' policy.PHOTO: AFP

MANAGUA (REUTERS) - Nicaragua on Tuesday (Jan 10) said it wanted to secure bigger international recognition for Taiwan during a visit by President Tsai Ing-wen at a moment of Chinese suspicions that the leader of the self-ruled island is seeking formal independence from China.

Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega welcomed his Taiwanese counterpart on a visit that follows complaints by Beijing about the attitude of US President-elect Donald Trump who has questioned the United States' commitment to China's position that Taiwan is part of one China.

State media in Nicaragua, which is seeking Chinese investment for a massive canal to compete with Panama's waterway, said Mr Ortega would continue backing Taiwan.

"We're still engaged in this battle, which is a just battle, one of principles, so that the people of Taiwan continue to be incorporated in international organizations attached to the United Nations," Mr Ortega said in the state media of Taiwan, which is not a member of the United Nations.

Mr Trump broke years of US diplomatic tradition as president-elect by accepting a congratulatory telephone call from Tsai on his surprise election win, clashing with the one-China policy that Beijing regards as the basis of US-Chinese relations.

The row sparked speculation that China could pressure Taiwan's allies to break ties. Since the mid-1990s, almost a third have done so. Taiwan now has formal relations with just 21, mostly smaller and poorer nations in Latin America and the Pacific.

Ms Tsai, who was travelling with a business delegation, took part in a meeting of the Taiwan-Nicaragua chamber of commerce, and pledged to deepen trade and investment between the two.

"(I want) to thank the allied countries in Central America, especially Nicaragua, because of this constant support for our country to participate in the United Nations," she said in the Nicaraguan state media transcription of her remarks.

Nicaraguan General Alvaro Baltodano, one of Mr Ortega's delegates at the meeting with Ms Tsai, said he did not expect her visit to complicate relations with China.

"We've always had these warm relations with both China and Taiwan," he said.

Nicaragua in 2013 granted Chinese businessman Wang Jing a 50-year concession to build a canal worth US$40 billion (S$57.5 billion), although doubts about the project's viability persist.