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Politics & Law

El Salvador is the latest US-China battlefield ahead of Taiwan warfare


El Salvador’s Foreign Minister Carlos Castaneda speaks, as China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi listens, at a signing ceremony to mark the establishment of diplomatic relations between El Salvador and China at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, Aug. 21, 2018. (photo from Voice of America News)

This White House Press Secretary Aug 23 statement criticises in the first paragraph that “the Government of El Salvador announced it would discontinue its decades-long diplomatic relations with Taipei in favor of establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing.

“The leaders of El Salvador’s governing party have made this decision, which will have implications for decades to come, in a non-transparent fashion only months before they leave office.

“This is a decision that affects not just El Salvador, but also the economic health and security of the entire Americas region.

“The El Salvadoran government’s receptiveness to China’s apparent interference in the domestic politics of a Western Hemisphere country is of grave concern to the United States, and will result in a reevaluation of our relationship with El Salvador (highlight by author).”

The Trump administration, however, did not say anything like this when Panama and Dominica switched to Beijing in June 2017 and May 2018 respectively. As regards the former case, the Voice of America reported that the “State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert referred to Panama’s decision to switch diplomatic ties from Taiwan to China as “an internal matter” between the governments of Taiwan and Panama. The White House statement indicates the U.S. is now shifting that stance.”

Why “shifting”? Geo-politically speaking, Panama is strategically much more important than El Salvador due to the Panama Canal. Why is the El Salvador case so sensitive?

Domestic economic concern is perhaps the major reason why the Salvadoran government which has been led by the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) since 2009 turns to Beijing. Their move to build up official diplomatic ties with Beijing, however, could cause negative domino effects on Washington’s war-plan for Taiwan. It is because El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are the three members of the “Northern Triangle” of Central America.

In my China Daily Mail Jan 31 article which argued that China and the United States would have a “proxy war” in Taiwan, I said, out of the seven considerations, the fifth one was that “Guatemala, Honduras, Marshall Islands, Nauru and Palau maintain official relations with the Taiwan government. Given their support of Washington in the United Nations’ vote on Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem, there is a chance that American aid of all kinds could be forwarded to Taiwan via them, thus putting China “under adverse condition”, even though Taiwan would then be encircled.”

One of the reasons behind the support from Guatemala and Honduras in the UN for the U.S. is that the Obama administration allotted a package of $750 million aid to the three Northern Triangle countries beginning from 2016. However, as the inter-national relations have been deteriorating between the Trump administration and the Triangle in general and El Salvador in particular, there is a worry that Honduras and Guatemala may follow El Salvador’s move towards Beijing sooner rather than later. It would then jeopardize the Pentagon’s flexibility during the Beijing-Taipei war which could take place as early as in 2020-4.

The opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of China Daily Mail.

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About keith K C Hui

Keith K C Hui is a Chinese University of Hong Kong graduate major in Government and Public Administration and the author of "Helmsman Ruler: China's Pragmatic Version of Plato's Ideal Political Succession System In The Republic" (2013).

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