TAIPEI (Reuters) – Nicaragua’s decision last week to cut ties with Taiwan was part of a deliberate move by China to target the island’s diplomatic allies after it was excluded from a democracy summit hosted by Washington, Taiwan’s foreign minister said on Tuesday.
Nicaragua broke its longstanding diplomatic ties with Taiwan last week, switching allegiance to Beijing in a recognition of the Chinese Communist Party’s One China policy and reducing Taipei’s dwindling pool of international allies.
“When democratic countries were holding a democratic summit, China was excluded, China was a target, so China chose this opportunity to set about targeting our diplomatic allies,” said Foreign Minister Joseph Wu on the sidelines of a forum on regional security.
Digital Minister Audrey Tang and Taiwan’s de facto ambassador in Washington Hsiao Bi-khim represented the island at the Biden administration’s “Summit for Democracy” last week. China was not on the U.S. State Department’s invited participants list.
“Losing a diplomatic ally is a very painful thing for us,” Wu told reporters.
China’s foreign ministry said in a statement to Reuters the comments were an attempt to “cover up the failures of separatist activities”.
Beijing has increased military and political pressure on Taiwan to accept its sovereignty claims, drawing anger from the democratically ruled island, which has repeatedly said it would not be bullied and has the right to international participation.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said the island would not bend to pressure or change its determination to uphold democracy and freedom.
“The more successful Taiwan’s democracy is, the stronger the international support, and the greater the pressure from the authoritarian camp,” she said in Taipei.
China and Nicaragua’s move to re-establish diplomatic ties will likely boost Beijing’s influence in a part of the world long considered the United States’ backyard, angering Washington.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega first cut ties with Taiwan in 1985, but they were re-established with the island in 1990 under then-Nicaraguan President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.
Wu said all of his colleagues in the foreign ministry “put forth their greatest efforts to maintain these diplomatic ties.”
Nicaragua’s move to cut ties with Taiwan leaves the island with just 14 formal diplomatic allies, most of them in Latin America and the Caribbean, plus a handful of small states.
(Reporting by Sarah Wu; Additional reporting by Beijing newsroom; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)