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Taiwan cuts ties with El Salvador (update)

2018/08/21 11:53:40

Taipei, Aug. 21 (CNA) Taiwan is cutting diplomatic ties with El Salvador after the Central American nation asked Taiwan for an "astronomical sum" of financial aid, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) announced Tuesday.

Wu said Taiwan will halt all bilateral cooperative projects, cut all assistance to the former ally, and pull out its diplomatic staff and technical missions from the country that has had ties with the Republic of China since 1933.

Wu again accused China's government of engaging in money diplomacy to brutally lure away Taiwan's allies but stressed Taiwan will not back down from Beijing's pressure.

According to the foreign minister, El Salvador had been in talks with Beijing on the possibility of establishing diplomatic ties since June 2018, and Taiwan had been doing its best to persuade the country to reconsider the decision but to no avail.

Sensing that it had done all it could diplomatically, the Foreign Ministry decided to announce the severing of ties with El Salvador at 7 a.m. Tuesday, Wu said.

The announcement came one day after President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) returned from an nine-day state visit to two diplomatic allies, Paraguay and Belize, that including stopovers in Los Angeles and Houston.

El Salvador is the fifth diplomatic ally to switch its loyalty from Taiwan to China since Tsai took office in May 2016, often because of promises of huge financial assistance packages or loans from Beijing.

Wu revealed that over the past year, El Salvador's government repeatedly asked Taiwan to invest in its Port of La Union development project.

But after a team inspected the site, Taiwan did not see the project as viable and felt it would result in serious debt for both Taiwan and El Salvador, Wu said.

"As a responsible government, we certainly could not put our money into the 'unrealistic' project," the minister said.

Also, the Central American nation is scheduled to hold a presidential election in February 2019, and the administration of President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, which is trailing in the race, asked Taiwan's government to fund its campaign, Wu said.

"Such a request runs counter to the democratic principles we uphold, and we certainly could not agree," he said.

In a nationally televised speech, Sanchez Ceren said his country was cutting diplomatic and commercial ties with Taiwan and would establish full diplomatic and commercial relations with the People's Republic China.

"This is a step in the right direction, corresponding to the principles of international law, international relations and the inevitable trends of our times. It will also enable great benefits for the country," Sanchez Ceren was quoted as saying by Salvadoran media.

He also said Salvadoran students in Taiwan would be moved to China in the coming days to ensure their opportunities to study.

According to Salvadoran media, opposition figures blasted the government for making the decision without any national discussion or studying its economic impact, calling it "shameful" and "nefarious."

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio said on Twitter before the severing of ties was announced that it would be a terrible mistake for El Salvador to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China.

"Maybe they think China $ will help governing party win elections in 2019. But will cause real harm to relationship with U.S."

It was the first time the Tsai administration pre-emptively announced it was severing diplomatic relations with a formal ally before that ally declared it was switching recognition to Beijing, according to Wu.

The pre-emptive announcement came as El Salvador was meeting a Chinese delegation to prepare for the shift in relations to Beijing, according to El Salvador newspaper La Prensa.

The decision leaves Taiwan with 17 diplomatic allies.

(By Joseph Yeh)
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