TAIPEI/BEIJING—Taiwan is vowing to fight China’s “increasingly out of control” behavior after Taipei lost another ally to Beijing, when El Salvador became the third country this year to switch allegiances to China.
Taiwan now has formal relations with only 17 countries worldwide, with most of them in Central America and the Pacific.
President Tsai Ing-wen, speaking in Taipei on Aug. 21, said Taiwan wouldn’t bow to pressure. He described El Salvador’s decision as further evidence of China’s efforts to squeeze the island, which have included regular Chinese bomber patrols around Taiwan.
“We will turn to countries with similar values to fight together against China’s increasingly out-of-control international behavior,” Tsai said.
Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told reporters earlier that Taipei wasn’t willing to engage in “money competition” with its giant neighbor. He said El Salvador had been continuously asking for “massive funding support” since last year toward a port development, but Taiwan was unable to assist with the “unsuitable project” after assessment.
“Pressure from China would only make Taiwan more determined to continue our path of democracy and freedom,” Wu said.
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.’
El Salvador’s president, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, announced in a nationally televised speech that his government had broken off diplomatic relations with Taiwan and instead established ties with China.
The news comes as Tsai wrapped up a high-profile trip to Taiwan allies Paraguay and Belize, including stops in the U.S. cities of Los Angeles and Houston.
El Salvador is the fifth country Taiwan will lose as a diplomatic ally since Tsai came to office in 2016, following Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, Sao Tome and Principe, and Panama.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said the decision by El Salvador was a “terrific mistake” in a Twitter post. He added that the switch in diplomatic recognition “will cause real harm to the relationship with the U.S.,”while the U.S. ambassador in El Salvador, Jean Manes, wrote in a Twitter post that the United States was analyzing El Salvador’s “worrisome” decision to break ties with Taiwan.
“Without a doubt, this will impact our relationship with the (Salvadoran) government. We continue supporting the Salvadoran people,” Manes wrote, without elaborating.
Amanda Mansour, spokesperson for the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT)—the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan—said China’s moves to lure away Taiwan’s allies is harmful to regional stability, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA).
“The United States urges China to abstain from coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people of Taiwan,” she said.
Ahead of next month’s summit between China and African leaders in Beijing, China has amped up the pressure on Taiwan’s last ally on the continent, eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland, to come to China’s side, diplomatic sources said.
By Jessica Macy Yu, Lee Yimou, Philip Wen, Ben Blanchard, & Nelson Renteria. Epoch Times staff member Frank Fang contributed to this report.