El Salvador’s move to end diplomatic relations with Taiwan and switched alliances to China was prompted by economic considerations, a presidential spokesperson said on Aug. 21.
The Latin American country announced in a nationally televised speech its decision to break ties with Taiwan on Aug. 20 and instead established relation with China’s ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The decision has prompted an outcry from Taiwan and the United States. In response, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said it would not engage in “money competition” with the CCP.
He accused the Latin American nation of continuously asking for “massive funding support” for a port development since last year, which Taiwan deemed an “unsuitable project” after its assessment. It was unclear if the CCP had offered any specific aid or economic incentive to El Salvador.
In a recent interview on Aug. 21, presidential spokesman Roberto Lorenzana denied the allegations saying the decision to switch alliance to the CCP was due to economic advantages of being able to trade with China. He said investment and developing the economy were key goals behind the decision.
“Fundamentally, it’s an interest in betting on the growth of our country with one of the world’s most booming economies,” he said. “El Salvador can’t turn its back on international reality.”
During the initial announcement, El Salvador’s president, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, said the decision to become closer to the communist regime was made after “careful” study. He added that he was convinced this is a step in the right direction as it “corresponds to the principles of international law of international relations and the inevitable trends of our time.”
However, President Tsai Ing-wen blamed pressure from the CCP for El Salvador’s decision at a news conference on Aug. 21, saying that it was another example of how the Chinese regime has tried to exert pressure over Taiwan to reduce the island nation’s international recognition.
“We will turn to countries with similar values to fight together against China’s increasingly out-of-control international behavior,” Tsai said.
The Aug. 20 move has left Taiwan with only 17 allies. El Salvador was the third Latin American country in the past two years to break ties with the island nation. Panama ditched Taiwan for China in 2017, and Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic followed early this year.
Taiwan is a full-fledged democracy with its own constitution, elected officials, and military; Beijing considers the island nation a renegade province that one day will be united with the mainland, by military force if necessary.
The Chinese regime has strategically established alliances with nations that have had diplomatic ties with Taiwan—by giving large sums in loans and investments—as a way to pressure them into recognizing only “one China.”
The U.S. ambassador in El Salvador, Jean Manes, said in a tweet on Aug. 21 that El Salvador’s decision was “worrisome for many reasons.” She added that the decision would “certainly impact our relationship with the government.”
The United States keeps unofficial relations with Taiwan, a source of tension with the CCP.
EE.UU está analizando la decisión de #ElSalvador. Es preocupante por muchas razones, entre las que se incluye romper una relación de más de 80 años con #Taiwán. Sin duda, esto impactará nuestra relación con el gobierno. Seguimos apoyando al pueblo salvadoreño.
— Jean Manes (@USAmbSV) August 21, 2018
Following the announcement, Florida Senator Marco Rubio said in a tweet there would be “real consequences” if El Salvador broke ties with Taiwan.
“They think we are going to react the same way we did to Panama & DominicanRepublic. They are very wrong,” he tweeted.
In a later tweet, he wrote that he has joined with Colorado Senator Cory Gardner to draft an amendment to end foreign aid to El Salvador in response to the Aug. 20 decision.
“I have joined @SenCoryGardner in an amendment to end foreign aid to El Salvador after their leftist government decided to abandon Taiwan in favor of China. I also spoke to @realdonaldtrump about cutting off their aid just a few minutes ago,” he wrote.
I have joined @SenCoryGardner in an amendment to end foreign aid to #ElSalvador after their leftist government decided to abandon #Taiwan in favor of #China. I also spoke to @realdonaldtrump about cutting off their aid just a few minutes ago.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 21, 2018
El Salvador has made the wrong decision regarding Taiwan, and it will negatively influence US relations with El Salvador. The US govt must stand up to China’s campaign to bully Taiwan with every tool we have. https://t.co/CfnJBKEck9
— Cory Gardner (@SenCoryGardner) August 21, 2018
Reuters and Epoch Times staff member Frank Fang contributed to this report.