Nicaragua’s decision to cut ties with Taiwan was part of a deliberate move by the Chinese regime targeting the island’s diplomatic allies, following Beijing’s exclusion from the U.S.-led democracy summit, Taiwan’s foreign minister said on Dec. 14.
The government of Nicaragua announced on Dec. 9 that it terminated “diplomatic relations” with Taipei and switched allegiance to Beijing, declaring that it recognizes “there is only one single China” in favor of the Chinese communist regime.
The severing of ties has left the self-ruled island—which China claimed as its own—with 14 formal diplomatic allies, most of them in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“Losing a diplomatic ally is a very painful thing for us,” Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told reporters on Tuesday.
He said the “greatest efforts” of the foreign ministry to maintain ties with the former ally were in vain.
“When democratic countries were holding a democratic summit, China was excluded. … [It] chose this opportunity to set about targeting our diplomatic allies,” said Wu on the sidelines of a forum on regional security.
Representatives of Taipei joined the Summit for Democracy last week, a two-day virtual gathering organized by the Biden administration. China was not among the invitees, along with Burma (also known as Myanmar), Russia, and Vietnam.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Dec. 10, “The more successful Taiwan’s democracy and stronger the support for Taiwan from the international community, the larger pressure from the authoritarian rule camp comes.”
China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, said on the same day that countries will “establish or restore normal diplomatic relations with China.”
On Dec. 13, days after the severance of diplomatic ties with Taiwan, Nicaragua received one million Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines from Beijing.
The U.S. State Department said the Central American nation’s decision did not reflect “the will of the Nicaraguan people” due to its unfree, unfair election. Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega, who secured a fourth term in November’s election, earlier jailed 40 opposition figures, including seven potential presidential candidates.
This is the second time that Nicaragua has cut ties with Taiwan under the president. Ortega first ended 55 years of formal relations with Taiwan in 1985, which were re-established in 1990 under then-President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.
Reuters contributed to this report.