Panama shifts diplomatic ties from Taiwan to China
June 15, 2017
Panama switched diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China on Tuesday, the latest development in Beijing’s drive to isolate 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.”
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 legal government representing the whole of China, and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory,” the statement read.
“The Government of the Republic of Panama severs ‘diplomatic relations’ with Taiwan as of this day and undertakes not to have any more official relations or official exchanges with Taiwan,” it continued.
At the Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Panamanian Vice President and Foreign Minister Isabel de Saint Malo signed a joint communique establishing diplomatic relations, followed by a champagne toast.
Wang said he was sure relations between the two countries would have a “bright future.”
Saint Malo said she hoped the new relationship would lead to trade, investment and tourism opportunities, in particular: “exporting more goods from Panama to China.”
China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949 and Beijing has vowed to take control of the island by force if necessary.
While the sides had maintained an undeclared diplomatic truce for much of the past decade, relations have deteriorated under current Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who took office more than a year ago but has declined to endorse China’s view that Taiwan and the mainland are part of a single Chinese nation.
The past year has seen China ratcheting up the diplomatic pressure on Taiwan, barring its representatives from attending the World Health Organization’s annual conference and other international gatherings.
Beijing cut off contacts with Taiwan government bodies a year ago, and in recent months has also sailed an aircraft carrier strike force around the island in a display of its growing military power.
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