Taiwan loses third diplomatic ally this year after El Salvador breaks ties

Eighteen countries currently have diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
Eighteen countries currently have diplomatic ties with Taiwan.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING - China on Tuesday (Aug 21) established ties with El Salvador in another blow to Taiwan as the Central American country also severed relations with the self-ruled island, reducing its diplomatic allies to just 17.

Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who signed document establishing ties between the two countries with his El Salvadorean counterpart Carlos Castaneda in a ceremony at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, said El Salvador committed to abiding by the one China principle “with no pre-conditions”.

El Salvador’s switch from Taiwan to China comes just a day after Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen completed a tour of South and Central America, to Paraguay and Belize, with high-profile stopovers in Los Angeles and Houston.

El Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez said in a televised national address that “China is the second-biggest economy in the world with permanent growth and its achievements in different fields position it among the most successful countries”. 

He said the central American country, which built ties with the Republic of China government in 1933, would see“great benefits” and “extraordinary opportunities” in the new relationship with Beijing.  Taiwan’s formal name is the Republic of China, whose government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with the Communists.  

“We are convinced this is a step in the right direction that corresponds to the principles of international law of international relations and the inevitable trends of our time,” he said.

It is the fifth diplomatic ally that Taiwan has lost to China since Ms Tsai, from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, came to power in 2016.

In May, the West African state of Burkina Faso became the fourth country to cut ties with Taiwan, following the Dominican Republic, Sao Tome and Principe, and Panama.

Taiwan now has formal relations with just 17 countries worldwide, many of them smaller, less developed nations in Central America and the Pacific like Belize and Nauru.

Speaking in Taipei, President Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan will not bow to pressure, describing the El Salvador move as further evidence of China’s efforts to squeeze the island, which have included regular Chinese bomber patrols around Taiwan, Reuters reported. 

“We will turn to countries with similar values to fight together against China’s increasingly out-of-control international behaviour,” Ms Tsai said. 

Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said at a press conference earlier Tuesday that Taiwan is not willing to continue with "money competition" with China.

He said El Salvador had been continuously asking for “massive funding support” since last year for a port development, but Taiwan was unable to assist with the “unsuitable project” after assessment. 

“Pressure from China would only make Taiwan more determined to continue our path of democracy and freedom,” he said.

“China’s rude and unreasonable behaviour will certainly have negative impact to cross-strait relations. This is also not how a responsible country should behave.”

China has sought to squeeze Taiwan’s international space after Ms Tsai refused to acknowledge the 1992 consensus between the two sides that China and Taiwan belong to one China with each side free to interpret what that means.