China, Nicaragua re-establish ties in blow to US, Taiwan

BEIJING/MANAGUA (REUTERS) – China and Nicaragua re-established diplomatic ties on Friday (Dec 10) after the country broke relations with Taiwan, boosting Beijing in a part of the world long considered the United States’ backyard and increasing Taipei’s isolation. 

China’s Foreign Ministry, announcing the decision after meetings with Nicaragua’s finance minister and two of President Daniel Ortega’s sons in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, said the country had made the right decision. 

“This is the correct choice that conforms to the general trend and people’s aspirations,” it said. 

The severing of ties was lambasted by Taiwan, with its foreign ministry expressing “pain and regret”, saying that Mr Ortega had disregarded the friendship between the peoples of Taiwan and Nicaragua.

But Taipei was also defiant. 

“As a member of the international community, Taiwan has the right to exchange and develop diplomatic relations with other countries,” the ministry said. 

Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang said China was doing all it could to isolate Taiwan, but said it would not succeed. 

“We also see that many countries with the same values of democracy and freedom are paying more and more attention to Taiwan and supporting Taiwan,” he told reporters. 

China views Taiwan has a renegade province to be reunified, by force, if necessary, and has stepped up pressure to win away Taiwan’s remaining allies, especially in Central America and the Caribbean, with El Salvador and the Dominican Republic going over to Beijing in 2018, and Panama the year before.

The break with Taiwan is a blow to the United States. 

It follows months of worsening ties between Mr Ortega and Washington, and came on the day the US State Department said it had slapped sanctions on Nestor Moncada Lau, a national security adviser to Mr Ortega, alleging he operates an import and customs fraud scheme to enrich members of Mr Ortega’s government. 

The White House and State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Last month US President Joe Biden ripped into Mr Ortega, calling Nicaragua’s presidential election a “pantomime” as the former Marxist guerrilla and Cold War adversary of the United States won election for a fourth consecutive term.

One Taiwan-based diplomatic source, familiar with the region, said the move was not a surprise given Washington’s lack of leverage with Mr Ortega due to the sanctions, and that looking to China for aid and support was a natural course of action. 

“It appears that Ortega had had enough,” the source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Nicaragua’s break with Taiwan leaves the island with just 14 formal diplomatic allies, most of them in Latin America and the Caribbean, plus a handful of small states. 

It also follows threats by the incoming leaders of Honduras to break with Taipei.

However, since the Honduran election last month, the team around incoming President Xiomara Castro has rowed back from that position somewhat.

Before Nicaragua, Taiwan lost two allies in quick succession in September of 2019, when the Solomon Islands and Kiribati went over to Beijing.

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