Written by Staff Writer
Nicaragua has cut ties with Taiwan, the Taiwanese government announced on Wednesday.
“The Central American country has refused to support China’s plans for its One Belt, One Road Initiative, and announced that it will sever its diplomatic relations with Taiwan,” the Taiwanese government said in a press release.
Its foreign ministry also said that it had “called on Nicaragua to replace its old diplomatic relations with Taiwan with the one established by the People’s Republic of China in May of 1971.”
In a televised speech, President Daniel Ortega said the move had “nothing to do with China,” but rather reflected the sovereign rights of the country.
Nicaragua officially severed ties with Taiwan in 2001, a few months after Ortega’s administration launched a military offensive against what were then his country’s remaining political and military allies.
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Nicaragua was not Taiwan’s only client in Central America — it was the closest of the island’s two remaining diplomatic allies in the region, and had collaborated closely with Taiwan on political and economic issues.
Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega, pictured in July 2018, had just won re-election, returning to power in a controversial vote
But Nicaragua’s ties with Taiwan had begun to sour in recent years, as China — Nicaragua’s biggest trade partner — started to lure the country away from its former ally.
Trade between China and Nicaragua almost doubled in 2017, according to official data, and the Central American country imported nearly $1 billion in goods from China that year.
China is also actively seeking to cut ties with Taiwan’s diplomatic allies around the world, making its presence more evident in several countries where Taiwan has fewer links.
Last September, China allowed Taiwan to hold a high-level trade mission at the 15th World Internet Conference, in Wuzhen, in eastern China.
China quietly lifted trade restrictions in Nicaragua in 2015 — just before Nicaragua became embroiled in a power struggle with its pro-independence president.
In May last year, Taiwan’s official news agency, the Central News Agency, said Nicaragua had abandoned Taipei’s “piecemeal” diplomatic ties with other countries, adding that the country’s policy toward Taiwan had taken a “new stance.”
In November, Nicaragua officially severed ties with Vanuatu, its last remaining ally in the South Pacific.
Nicaragua is not the only country to have abandoned Taiwan in recent years. New Zealand permanently cut its diplomatic ties with Taiwan last year, and has since upgraded ties with China.
In 2011, Japan also stopped defending Taiwan at the United Nations, while Taiwan’s last remaining ally, Panama, also severed its ties with the island nation in 2013.
Nicaragua’s cut of ties with Taiwan comes amid rising tensions between the two countries.