Panama switches diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China

Panama switches diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China

Panama's president, Juan Carlos Varela, announced the change - which entails breaking off formal relations with Taiwan - in a televised address, saying it represented the "correct path for our country".

Panama is opening diplomatic relations with China, the latest blow to Taiwan as Beijing's leaders seek to isolate the self-governing island.

A joint statement released in the evening said Panama and China were recognizing each other and establishing ambassador-level relations as of that same day. Soon after Tsai took power, Beijing cut official communication channels with her government to try to pressure her to concede that Taiwan is part of China.

After decades of siding with Taiwan in the disagreement, Panama now "recognizes that there is only one China in the world" and that Taiwan is part of Chinese territory.

The announcement comes after Beijing began construction last week of a container port, with natural gas facilities, in Panama's northern province of Colon.

Panama's vice president and foreign minister, Isabel de Saint Malo and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi sign a joint communique in Beijing that states the intention of Panama and China to establish diplomatic ties.

"Our government expresses serious objections and strong condemnation in response to China enticing Panama to cut ties with us, confining our global space and offending the people of Taiwan", the foreign ministry said in a statement.

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Taiwan's ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement that in breaking ties, President Varela had ignored the friendship between their countries and Taiwan's efforts to help Panama's development. Beijing views it as the political foundation between Taiwan and mainland China.

Taiwan had as many as 30 diplomatic allies in the mid-1990s, and its remaining formal ties are with mostly smaller and poorer nations in Latin America and the Pacific.

Panama had been among the largest economies to have maintained diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen attended a ceremony to mark the opening of the expanded Panama Canal a year ago in an effort to shore up ties with its Latin American ally.

Panama had "submitted to the Beijing authorities for economic benefits" and "lied" to the government of Taiwan, the statement said.

Cross-strait tensions have been further exacerbated by a highly unusual call from Tsai to congratulate then US President-elect Donald Trump, who questioned Washington's policy towards the island, including its decision to not formally recognise its government.

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