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Panama switches diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China

13 June 2017

Jou Jyh-bang (周治邦), a professor of National Taiwan University's Graduate Institute of National Development, said "it's a big loss for Taiwan" after Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela announced that Panama was establishing diplomatic ties with China.

Panama is opening diplomatic relations with China, the latest blow to Taiwan as Beijing's leaders seek to isolate the self-governing island.

Taiwan Foreign Minister David Lee speaks at the Foreign Ministry in Taipei on June 13, 2017.

A joint statement released on Monday evening said Panama and China were recognising each other and establishing ambassadorial-level relations the same day.

China is deeply suspicious of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who it thinks wants to push for the island's formal independence, although she says she wants to maintain peace with Beijing. "The relationship between China and Panama has a history of more than 160 years", he continued.

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But not for some time, let's get this clear. "In other words, we could easily get to the middle of next week and it all collapses for her".

Indeed, it is the right path for the Central American country to recognize the one-China policy and found its way to the mainstream worldwide community.

He said Taiwan was also cutting its diplomatic ties with Panama to "safeguard" the "nation's sovereignty and dignity".

Following the decision, Taiwan's presidential office expressed "regret and dissatisfaction" with the Central American country and strongly condemned the move.

Panama's termination of bilateral relations with Taiwan means there are only 20 countries that recognise Taiwan.

The past year has seen China ratcheting up the diplomatic pressure on Taiwan, barring its representatives from attending the World Health Organization's annual conference and other global gatherings.

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Taiwan's circle of diplomatic allies has been shrinking since it lost its United Nations seat to Beijing in 1971.

It adds that Panama recognizes only one legitimate China and that Taiwan "forms an inalienable part of Chinese territory".

China considers the self-governed island as part of its territory.

In Beijing, Panama's foreign minister de Saint Malo said President Varela had expressed 10 years ago his interest in establishing ties with China, and that she hoped the move would lead to trade, investment and tourism opportunities, especially for "exporting more goods from Panama to China".

A Chinese vessel was the first to pass through the Panama Canal after a major expansion project was completed last June.

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Panama switches diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China