Dominican Republic cuts ties with Taiwan in favour of China

A US M1A2 Abrams tank fires during the Noble Partner 2016 joint military exercise at the Vaziani training area outside Tbilisi

The Dominican Republic has announced it has severed ties with Taiwan and switched its allegiance to China, reducing the number of countries with formal relations with the government in Taipei to fewer than 20. Taipei has struggled to compete with an increasingly powerful China.

Last year, in another major blow to Taiwan, Panama switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

The development comes roughly a year a similar Chinese loan and investment push convinced another Latin American nation, Panama, to also sever ties with Taiwan, which communist China considers a Chinese territory despite the fact that the island is a democracy recognized as a sovereign nation by more than a dozen countries. The latter is rumored to be considering a switch in its pursuit of better relations with China, as The New York Times indicated earlier this year, mostly depending on a deal on the appointment of bishops.

Taiwan's foreign minister, Joseph Wu, said Beijing's actions had eroded trust and he blamed financial incentives for ending Taiwan's 77-year alliance with the Dominican Republic.

Last month, Taipei announced plans for greater defense spending in 2018 as tensions with Beijing have increased since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016 and refused to ratify the 1992 consensus acknowledging the two countries as "one China".

The countries that have maintained formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan have been ones that are relatively small in population and marginal to the global economy. Panama switched its diplomatic relations from Beijing to Taipei a year ago, and Costa Rica did likewise in 2007.

Taiwan's foreign ministry warned that former allies Costa Rica and Sao Tome and Principe have yet to receive more than $1 billion worth of assistance from China.

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Wang Yi, China's foreign minister, described the Dominican Republic's shift as part of a broader trend in Beijing's favor. He added that relations with other allies were stable and there's no immediate danger to Taiwan's ties with the Vatican. Beijing has since voiced fears that this may lead to a declaration of independence by the autonomous island.

The Taiwan official said the Dominican Republic move was not unexpected.

Beijing and Taipei have a long history of rivalry in their efforts to gain economic opportunities and diplomatic support from governments around the world.

Taiwan is regularly shut out of influential forums as organisers come under pressure from Beijing not to recognise the island as a valid participant.

Yen also said the tanks could help transfer technology to the island's defence industry, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported on Monday.

Espinal said that the government was grateful to Taiwan. Beijing sees the island as a renegade province that is part of its territory awaiting reunification. Taiwan cut its relations with the Caribbean nation.

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