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U.S. response to El Salvador switch shows Taiwan-U.S. cooperation

ROC Central News Agency

2018/08/22 16:38:47

Taipei, Aug. 22 (CNA) A U.S. expression of disappointment over El Salvador's decision to switch diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing shows close cooperation between Taiwan and the U.S., experts said Wednesday.

Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs first announced the severing of ties with El Salvador Tuesday, after which El Salvador declared it was cutting ties with Taiwan to establish formal relations with the People's Republic of China.

Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) attributed the loyalty switch to China's campaign of luring away Taiwan's allies with promises of massive financial assistance and investment.

When asked for comment on the U.S. stance on the incident, a State Department spokesperson said in an emailed statement that the decision was disappointing.

"Although we recognize the sovereign right of every country to determine its diplomatic relations, we are deeply disappointed by this decision," the spokesperson said.

"We are reviewing our relationship with El Salvador following this decision," the spokesperson added.

Asked to comment on the statement, Alexander Huang (黃介正), an associate professor in the New Taipei-based Tamkang University's Department of Diplomacy and International Relations, told CNA that it shows the U.S. government has been assisting Taiwan in solidifying ties with El Salvador over the past weeks.

"It reflects that the U.S. State Department was helping Taiwan or involved in the process over the past few weeks in order to preserve diplomatic relations," he said.

The outcome was not only disappointing for Taiwan but also for the U.S., Huang said.

The part of the statement that says it is reviewing U.S.-El Salvador ties further shows that Washington is reevaluating the overall situation in Latin America, he said.

Washington is apparently worried about whether China-El Salvador ties will eventually lead to some kind of arrangement that may hamper U.S. interests in the region, he added.

Meanwhile, ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), a member of the Legislature's Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, said that the more allies in Latin America and the Caribbean that Beijing lures away from Taipei will only lead to even closer cooperation between Taipei and Washington.

"Although it is extremely disappointing for Taiwan to lose another ally, the silver lining is that the incident will only make Taiwan and U.S. work together more closely," said Lo, an assistant professor at Taipei-based Soochow University's Department of Political Science.

The U.S. is doing so not because it is worried about Taiwan losing another friend but because it is losing its influence in Latin America and the Caribbean, the lawmaker said.

"The more diplomatic allies China has in the region means its voice will be louder and stronger in the region and could exceed that of the U.S. soon in the near future," he said.

What Taiwan needs to do now is to continue to work closely in solidifying its ties with its remaining 17 diplomatic allies, Lo said.

The government also needs to ask the U.S. to exert its influence in the region to help Taiwan to maintain diplomatic relations with its existing allies, due to shared interests in the region, he added.

Taiwan lost its fifth ally in two-and-half years Tuesday since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in May 2016. Among the five, three of them are located in Central America -- Panama, Dominican Republic and El Salvador.

(By Joseph Yeh)

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