Central American nation, Panama has cut its long-standing ties with Taiwan, choosing to establish diplomatic relations with China instead. The Panamanian government said that it recognised there was "only one China" and considered Taiwan part of it.
The switch was made official with Panama’s foreign minister signing a communiqué with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on 13 June 2017 in Beijing. The move leaves Taiwan with just 20 diplomatic allies.
Confirming the development, Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela stated during a media address that Panama was upgrading its commercial ties with China and establishing full diplomatic links with the second most important customer of its key shipping canal.
He further added saying that signing up to Beijing’s “One China” principle would generate a great potential in all areas including investment and job creation.
Chinese foreign minister described the development as a historic moment and said that Panama's decision was in complete accordance with its people's interests and in keeping with the times. Yi further stated that the governments of the two countries have mutually agreed to develop friendly relations and respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The move has come at a time when China has stepped up its efforts to isolate the self-governing island that it considers as a part of its own territory.
Taiwan's government said it was sorry and angry over Panama's decision and added that it would not compete with China in its "diplomatic money game".
Taiwan's minister of foreign affairs, David Lee stated that their government strongly objected and condemned China’s role in enticing Panama to cut ties with them, a move that has not only confined their international space but also offended their people.
In response, Taiwan would immediately end cooperation with Panama and evacuate their embassy and technical personnel from the country.
• The People’s Republic of China (PRC) supports ‘One-China policy’, which states that Taiwan and mainland China are both a part of China and that the PRC is the only legitimate government of the region.
• It uses this policy to prevent the international recognition of the Republic of China that includes Taiwan as an independent sovereign state.
• Earlier, Taiwan used to participate in international forums under the name "Chinese Taipei".
• With the emergence of the Taiwanese independence movement, the name ‘Taiwan’ is being increasingly employed on the island as well as off it.
• However, since the election of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and her pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, China has grown deeply suspicious of the nation.
• The Chinese government has tried to hamper Taiwan’s independence route by poaching its diplomatic allies and hampering its participation in international forums.
• In December 2016, China won over the support of African island nation Sao Tome and Principe, another ally of Taiwan.
• Taiwan had as many as 30 diplomatic allies in the mid-1990s and its remaining formal ties are with mostly smaller and poorer nations in Latin America and the Pacific.