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Diplomatic Victory for China as Panama Ditches Taiwan

Panama’s Foreign Minister Isabel de Saint Malo (L) with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing after the two countries restored diplomatic ties. Panama’s Foreign Minister Isabel de Saint Malo (L) with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing after the two countries restored diplomatic ties.

Panama has cut ties with Taiwan and established diplomatic relations with China, as Beijing intensifies efforts to isolate the self-governing island, which it considers Chinese territory.

Isabel Saint Malo, Panama’s foreign minister, signed a communique with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on Tuesday in Beijing to formalize the switch, leaving Taiwan with just 20 diplomatic allies, Financial Times reported.

Juan Carlos Varela, the president of the Central American nation, said that signing up to Beijing’s “One China” principle would generate “great potential in all areas”, including investment and job creation. Beijing has tightened the squeeze on Taiwan since the election last year of President Tsai Ing-wen and her pro-independence Democratic Progressive party.

The Chinese government has renewed a battle for diplomatic allies by aligning the tiny African nation of Sao Tome and Principe in December, hampering Taiwan’s participation in international forums and slashing the number of Chinese tourists that visit Taiwan.

Diplomats warned that other allies may follow Panama’s lead in abandoning Taiwan in search of improved political and economic ties with China.

“There will be a cascade,” said Jorge Guajardo, the former Mexican ambassador to China, who is now based in Washington. “The Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Paraguay might try to do the same and the big catch for Beijing would be the Vatican.”

Panama’s defection is the latest diplomatic coup for Beijing, which is capitalizing on the uncertainty surrounding US President Donald Trump’s foreign policy by exerting its influence from Southeast Asia to South Korea.

 

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