Taiwan 'deeply upset' by Dominican Republic switch to Beijing

Glen Norman
May 2, 2018

The Dominican Republic has established diplomatic relations with China and cut its ties with Taiwan. Taipei has struggled to compete with an increasingly powerful China.

It said there was a "lack of follow-through on China's promises to former diplomatic allies of Taiwan", including an unfulfilled pledge to build highways and a refinery in Costa Rica and provide $140 million in aid to São Tomé and Príncipe.

Many countries formally hold diplomatic relationships with China while maintaining political ties with Taiwan through informal offices.

Last year, Panama broke away from Taipei and established ties with China, recognising Taiwan to be a Chinese territory.

The Dominican Republic severed ties with Taiwan this week, ostensibly in exchange for a $3 billion investment package from China, according to Reuters.

Taiwan will decide by the end of this year whether it will buy a series of United States battle tanks - and if so, how many - amid expectations of greater military pressure from mainland China.

While that effort eased during the 2008-16 presidency of Ma Ying-jeou, who favored closer relations with China, it resumed with the election of his successor, Tsai Ing-wen.

Espinal said that even without formal diplomatic relations with China, trade between the two countries "has grown year after year to the point that today China is the second biggest supplier of our imports". The decision whittles Taiwan's formal allies down to 19, even as the U.S. takes steps toward providing more support to the self-governing island. This leaves Taiwan with just 19 diplomatic allies, many of them small states in South America with limited economic ties to China.

Wang Yi, China's foreign minister, described the Dominican Republic's shift as part of a broader trend in Beijing's favor.

In June past year, Panama cut ties with Taipei to open relations with Beijing.

While Tsai has expressed confidence in the Taiwanese military's capability to defend the island, she appeared to extend an olive branch to Beijing on Friday in light of the historic summit between the leaders of North and South Korea - another divided region in Asia.

The Taiwan official said the Dominican Republic move was not unexpected.

The governments in Beijing and Taipei insist that countries can not recognise both of them.

Taiwan is regularly shut out of influential forums as organisers come under pressure from Beijing not to recognise the island as a valid participant.

The US-based Defence News website reported back in 2015 that Taipei had been looking for surplus US Army M1 tanks to replace its M60s, but tanks were not a high priority given the island's mountainous interior and coastal wetlands.

The "One China" policy, which states Taiwan and Tibet as part of China, forms part of basis for all the countries to establish diplomatic relations with Beijing.

While Taiwan faces serious diplomatic challenges, Wu stressed that the government will not bow to pressure from Beijing.

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