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No El Salvador decision made on possibly resuming ties with Taiwan

2019/03/14 12:32:13

El Salvador President-elect Nayib Bukele speaks in Washington, D.C..

Washington, March 13 (CNA) No final decision has been made on whether to reverse an outgoing El Salvador government decision to switch recognition from Taiwan to China, the incoming El Salvador president said Wednesday.

"That decision has not been taken," El Salvador President-elect Nayib Bukele told reporters in a speech in Washington, D.C. when asked about the issue.

However, he confirmed that his team has held a meeting over the matter.

The comments came after Federico Anliker, a member of the Bukele team and secretary-general of his New Ideas party, said last month that the incoming administration will investigate why the outgoing government forged ties with China, as his party was not consulted or given an explanation over the August 2018 decision.

Meanwhile, commenting on China, Bukele criticized the second biggest economy in the world as "not playing by the rules."

"They do not respect the rules, they don't respect the rules of commerce; they go in, they take projects that are not feasible, then they leave the countries with huge loans they cannot repay, then they use that as leverage," he said.

He continued to blast Beijing as a currency-manipulator.

"They are not a democracy but they meddle into your democracy," he said.

The president-elect said El Salvador wants to be friends with China but that friendship has to be based on respect rather than money.

"If they respect us, we can have a relationship with them. If they do not respect us, we cannot have a relationship with them, even if they are the second-biggest economy in the world," he said.

He made the comments during a speech at the Heritage Foundation, a U.S. think tank.

Bukele's remarks came on the same day that El Salvador's highest court temporarily suspended the cancellation of a free trade agreement (FTA) with Taiwan after the Central American nation's sugar industry filed a request for an injunction, arguing that the move would hurt its business interests.

El Salvador's sugar chamber filed the request for the injunction with the country's highest court, saying that the December decision by incumbent President Salvador Sanchez Ceren to cancel the trade agreement put the sector's property rights and legal security in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, in Taipei, when asked to comment on Bukele's remarks, foreign ministry spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) said the ministry is glad to see such Taiwan-friendly comments, which shows that the country's decades-long efforts in El Salvador are bearing fruit.

He said the government is closely monitoring the latest situation.

Asked about the FTA issue, Lee said Taiwan welcomes and respects the decision.

Bukele won a landslide victory in February's presidential election, with more than 50 percent of the vote, ending 25 years of two-party dominance in the Central American nation.

During the campaign, Bukele was critical of the benefits El Salvador received after establishing diplomatic relations with China.

The outgoing ruling leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front ditched Taipei in favor of Beijing in August 2018, ending 85 years of official ties.

El Salvador is the fifth diplomatic ally to switch from Taiwan to China since Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in May 2016, often because of promises of huge financial assistance packages or loans from Beijing.

(By Joseph Yeh)