Panama establishes ties with China, ditches Taiwan

Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela announced on Monday that the Republic of Panama and the People's Republic of China have established diplomatic relations.

"The Government of the Republic of Panama recognizes that there is only one China in the world, the Government of the People's Republic of China is the only legitimate government representing all of China, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory", the statement reads.

The move leaves Taiwan in greater worldwide isolation, since it is now recognized by just 19 United Nations member states, as well as the Vatican.

The Panama move infuriated Taiwan, which is still recognised by around 20 mostly small and economically weak countries, including Haiti, Tuvalu and Burkina Faso.

Foreign Minister David Lee said Taiwan expressed "anger and regret" over the move, and will sever diplomatic ties with Panama and terminate all cooperation projects.

But relations have deteriorated since President Tsai Ing-wen's China-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party was swept to power in a landslide election victory past year.

And while Taiwan is angry, other countries could also be induced to switch. the New York Times quotes an worldwide relations expert who says that it is very possible that the remaining countries (in Central America) will switch.

"This is a historic moment, China-Panama relations have opened a new chapter", Wang said, adding that Panama's decision was in "complete accordance" with its people's interests and "in keeping with the times".

"Beijing's action has impacted the stable cross-strait status quo".

In a diplomatic coup for China, Panama yesterday cut long-standing diplomatic ties with Taiwan and established relations with Beijing as the cash-rich Communist giant exerted its economic clout to wean away handful of allies of the self-ruled island.

"Both the politicians and business people in Panama have witnessed China's increasing influence and regard it as an active and responsible power", Wu said. Last year, China's Landbridge Group bought Panama' largest port and has started construction of a three million TEU container terminal and liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility there.

The Panama Canal is a crucial waterway for trade.

Chang said that Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party remains in favor of independence from China, although it doesn't want to further antagonize Beijing.

Taiwan "strongly protests and condemns Beijing for luring Panama to switch diplomatic ties, squeezing Taiwan's space in the global community and hurting Taiwanese feelings", Lee said.

  • Zachary Reyes