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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Taiwan breaks diplomatic ties with El Salvador

The move is set to further isolate the self-ruled island

Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu attends a news conference, in Taipei, Taiwan. Reuters 
Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu attends a news conference, in Taipei, Taiwan. Reuters 

Taiwan says it is breaking off diplomatic ties with El Salvador because the Central American country plans to defect to rival Beijing. The move is the latest blow to the self-ruled island that China has been trying to isolate on the global stage.

The break in ties means Taiwan is recognised as a sovereign nation by only 17 mainly small, developing countries. In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced on Tuesday that his government has established ties with El Salvador.

Earlier this year, the West African nation of Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic broke ties with Taiwan and resumed or established diplomatic relations with China.

Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu on Tuesday condemned what he called China's campaign of luring away Taiwan's allies with promises of vast financial aid and investment.

Taiwan is willing to consider cooperating with its allies in education, farming or even infrastructure initiatives, Mr Wu said, but refuses to compete with China in buying diplomatic support. "It is irresponsible to engage in financial aid diplomacy or compete with China in cash, or even in providing illegal political money. My government is unwilling to and cannot do so."

Some analysts say Chinese President Xi Jinping, one of the most powerful Chinese leaders in decades, seems determined to bring Taiwan under Beijing's control during his time in office, which would place him in the history books alongside Mao Zedong.

The island's 23 million residents are strongly in favour of maintaining their de facto independent status, but Mr Xi has previously warned a Taiwanese envoy that the issue of unification cannot be put off indefinitely.

Mr Wu urged the people of Taiwan to unite despite the pressure the island was facing diplomatically.

"I want to emphasise that China's suppression of Taiwan has never stopped. We are a democratic and free country. This is a fact that the authoritarian regime cannot tolerate," he said. "We in Taiwan will continue to move forward."

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