Nicaragua cuts diplomatic ties with Taiwan and recognises Beijing

Nicaragua is switching diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing, in a move that reduces the number of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies to 14 nations and underscores China’s escalating campaign to isolate the country.

Managua on Thursday said it would sever its longstanding diplomatic relations with Taiwan and recognise the government in Beijing as the sole seat of power in China. The move follows a recent pledge from Xiomara Castro, the incoming president in Honduras, to switch recognition to Beijing.

“The People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government that represents all of China, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory,” Nicaragua’s foreign ministry said in a statement cited by Reuters news agency.

Taiwan expressed sadness over Nicaragua’s move and said it would immediately stop all bilateral co-operation and aid projects, and evacuate its embassy and technical assistance team.

“We feel very sorry that the government of President [Daniel] Ortega has disregarded the many years of friendship between the people of Taiwan and Nicaragua,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“As a member of the international society, Taiwan has the right to exchanges and develop diplomatic relations with other countries.”

China is increasingly putting economic and other forms of pressure on the remaining countries that have diplomatic ties with Taiwan, a country off the coast of mainland China over which Beijing claims sovereignty.

Beijing is trying to economically squeeze Lithuania, which this year allowed Taiwan to open up a representative office — a de facto embassy — in the capital of Vilnius.

The White House and state department did not immediately comment.

Taiwan has been a key donor for Nicaragua, and was ready to continue supporting the government of Daniel Ortega even as it came under fire internationally for jailing opposition candidates.

According to two people familiar with the situation, in the run-up to the November 7 presidential elections the administration of Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen agreed to give a new $100m loan to Nicaragua. But Taiwanese banks refused to extend the loan because they would have violated US sanctions against Nicaragua and thus put their own business at risk.

The shift by Nicaragua comes as Taiwan also endures direct pressure from Beijing. The Chinese military has this year sent fighter jets and bombers into Taiwan’s “air defence identification zone”, a safety buffer area, with increasing frequency and in greater numbers.

Last month Joe Biden discussed Taiwan with Xi Jinping in a virtual meeting. The Chinese leader warned the US president that any nation that backed or enabled independence for Taiwan would be “playing with fire”.

The US maintains a “one China” policy under which it recognises Beijing as the sole seat of power in China. But the Biden administration has taken several steps to increase unofficial engagements between the countries, which has sparked angry responses from the government in Beijing.

Bonnie Glaser, a Taiwan expert at the German Marshall Fund, said the Chinese campaign to pry countries away from Taiwan was starting to backfire because it was making other nations, such as US allies Japan and Australia, more supportive of efforts to boost Taipei’s security.

“It will accelerate the trend of countries’ willingness to support Taiwan,” Glaser said. “Taiwan’s isolation isn’t in the interests of the EU, Japan, Australia and many other countries. So they may take steps to strengthen their ties with Taiwan.”

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