Taiwan assures supporters amid Nicaragua flip

Taiwan’s Taiwan Affairs Office said Wednesday its people can “rest assured” as the country remains an ally of the United States and of 22 other countries, despite a decision by Nicaragua to enter into diplomatic relations with Communist China.

Nicaragua’s parliament Wednesday confirmed a deal announced a week ago between China and its socialist ally to restore diplomatic ties in exchange for financial support for Nicaragua, amid Trump administration efforts to improve U.S. relations with China and strengthen America’s own ties with Taiwan.

The Nicaraguan decision to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China was heavily criticized by Washington and allies in Central America. Nicaragua is located in the Caribbean, not an area where the United States is actively pursuing counter-intelligence measures against a source of espionage, Vice President Mike Pence’s office said.

The White House said Nicaragua’s move threatened regional security. “Once again we see that China is using a small island nation as a pawn in its efforts to gain access to the Western Hemisphere,” the White House said in a statement.

Pence spokesman Jarrod Agen said in a statement: “China’s attempt to bully Nicaragua is all about ideology – rather than a real interest in an orderly and prosperous trading relationship.”

The ministry said in a statement Taiwan remained the only country in the world with full diplomatic ties with the United States. It also said the Taipei-Nicaragua relations were “long-established and not a government’s policy,” referring to Nicaragua’s actions to change its relationship with the United States.

China’s government has vowed to use all means to protect Taiwan from being attacked by the United States and has shown no willingness to concede the island’s status.

The ministry said the United States was paying “political and economic compensation” to China, which it said was self-governed and therefore a country “to be dealt with accordingly.”

Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party, or DPP, said Nicaragua’s decision was aimed at limiting Taiwan’s influence.

Opposition lawmaker Roy Chiang said Nicaragua’s moves exposed problems with the DPP’s economic policies.

Taiwan’s DPP has been targeting Nicaragua, as well as Paraguay, as allies since winning presidential elections in 2016. Taiwan has been scrambling to gain international recognition for its government since the United States shifted its diplomatic policies to acknowledge China’s claims over the island.

Chiang said Taiwan has been left out of an agreement between the Panama and China to improve trade ties because Nicaraguans opposed any pact with the Democratic Progressive Party government.

Taiwan is a self-governing democracy and China considers the island part of its territory to be recovered by force if necessary. The Pentagon has said it has identified ways to provide stability to Taiwan and make the Taiwan Strait less tense, but Taiwan observers have said the officials who head up U.S. defense policy toward the island haven’t gone far enough to satisfy Taipei.

Taiwan’s one-party government enjoys solid public support. But national elections were just a year away and many Taiwanese are concerned about economic slowdown and also feel democracy is bypassing them.

Besides Nicaragua, the People’s Republic of China has unofficial ties with only 22 other countries, including Egypt, New Zealand and Haiti. Several African nations are moving closer to Beijing, and Taiwan’s relationship with Haiti has been rocky.

Taiwan’s overseas voting network has high-tech systems that allow overseas Taiwanese to cast votes for their governments. Most are in the U.S., the Philippines, the U.K., Canada and Australia.

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