Panama breaks diplomatic ties with self-ruled Taiwan in favor of establishing formal relations with Beijing, in what is viewed as a diplomatic victory for China which regards Taiwan as a breakaway province.
The Panama City government said in a statement on Monday that it recognized there is only one China, and that Taiwan is part of the Asian giant.
“The Panamanian government is today breaking its diplomatic ties with Taiwan, and pledges to end all relations or official contact with Taiwan,” the statement added.
Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela also said in a televised address that “Panama and China establish diplomatic relations today.”
The move drew an angry reaction from Taiwan.
“We strongly condemn Beijing for manipulating the so-called ‘one China’ policy to continue to suppress Taiwan’s international space through various means,” the presidential office said Tuesday.
Diplomatic disputes between Taiwan and mainland China had eased under the island’s previous Beijing-friendly government.
But ties between the two sides have been especially fraught since Tsai Ing-wen, of Taiwan’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, rose to power in the island following a presidential election in 2016.
Taiwan’s China-sceptic leader has refused the concept that the island is part of ‘one China.’
On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Panamanian opposite number Isabel Saint Malo de Alvarado signed a joint communiqué establishing ties in Beijing.
“This is a historic moment, China-Panama relations have opened a new chapter,” Wang said.
He added that Panama’s decision was in “complete accordance” with its people’s interests and “in keeping with the times.”
China’s Foreign Ministry also said in a statement on its website, “The two countries’ governments agreed to develop good friendly relations on the principles of mutual respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-aggression, mutual non-interference in internal affairs, mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.”
Panama is the latest country to cut relations with Taiwan, bringing the number of the countries that formally recognize the island down to 20.