MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Nicaragua has cast its lot with China, withdrawing from Taiwan to preserve relations with what was once a rival.
Nicaragua’s announcement Tuesday marked the end of a 77-year diplomatic relationship with Taiwan and a potentially ominous move for President Daniel Ortega, who is trying to salvage the impoverished Central American nation’s political independence from the United States.
Nicaragua’s Chinese Embassy will open soon in Beijing, the new embassy said, and bilateral relations will “strengthen.” The new Chinese Embassy’s director, Wu Hongbin, told The Associated Press that Nicaragua would make a visit to Beijing to mark the occasion.
Ortega and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang discussed “ways of boosting cooperation in different areas during their conversation in Beijing on Aug. 28,” state television said.
Nicaragua joined China as an official ally in 1961 when it recognized China in the midst of a Cold War showdown between the Soviet Union and the United States. Over the decades Nicaragua cut off formal relations with Taiwan, finally concluding a seven-decade truce in May. The deal, which was signed with Taiwan’s embassy in Managua, was generally welcomed in the past by international community but was accused of trivializing Taiwan’s diplomatic presence abroad.
Under Ortega, Nicaragua has gradually improved relations with China, seeking Chinese assistance and investments in roads, power and irrigation projects. He told Chinese leaders that he was “open and friendly” toward them during the July visit, but he remains cautious of his neighbors, the United States and Mexico. Nicaragua does not have diplomatic relations with either and is the only country in the Western Hemisphere without a diplomatic seat in the United Nations.
There were signs of suspicion that Monday’s announcement was part of a calculated effort by Ortega to better ensure support from Beijing. The Nicaraguan government’s daily newspaper, La Prensa, said that Nicaragua had called on the United States to defend Taiwan and that “Agrarian reformers and revolutionary chieftains are turning toward China.” It also quoted a statement in which the country said it would consider Taiwan “relevant to past policy” but with its formal recognition.