The United States has recalled its top diplomats from Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Panama for consultations over those countries’ recent decisions to switch their diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China.
The three US Ambassadors “will meet with US government leaders to discuss ways in which the United States can support strong, independent, democratic institutions and economies throughout Central America and the Caribbean,” said the State Department on Friday.
El Salvador was the latest to cut ties with Taiwan in August, Dominican Republic in May and Panama last summer, reducing the number of Taipei’s former diplomatic allies to just 17.
China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, refuses to maintain diplomatic relations with any country that recognises the self-governed democratic island of 23 million.
It has aggressively tried to lure or pressure Taiwan’s diplomatic allies to isolate the country on the global stage, in what many believe is a determined strategy by Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, to bring it under his control during his tenure.
Washington’s latest move comes amid growing concern within the US administration that China is acting in a predatory manner on Washington’s doorstep by seeking to pull Latin America into its orbit through financial incentives that create economic dependency on Beijing.
Last week, a bill was introduced to the US Senate by Colorado Senator Cory Gardner to forge a US strategy to support Taiwan’s diplomatic recognition around the world and to suspend aid or downgrade Washington’s relations with any government that takes “adverse actions” with regards to Taipei.
“This bipartisan legislation demands a whole-of-government approach to stand up to China’s bullying tactics against Taiwan, and will send a strong message to those nations considering siding with China over Taiwan that there will be consequences for such action,” said Senator Gardner.
Washington itself has not officially recognised Taiwan since 1979, when it shifted its recognition to China’s communist government to suit its own strategic and economic interests.
However, the island remains an important American ally in the region and unofficial ties have grown stronger since the start of the Trump administration. Washington is Taipei’s main arms supplier and most vocal international backer.