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Politics & Law

A hazardous signal to China as US recalled top diplomats from Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Panama over Taiwan


Dominican Republic Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi show documents after a signing ceremony in Beijing on May 1, 2018 Tuesday, where they formally established diplomatic relations. (Photo by How Hwee Young/EPA-EFE from Caribbean News Now.)

AP news on Sept 7: “The United States has recalled its envoys to the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Panama after decisions by those nations to cut ties with Taiwan in favor of diplomatic relations with China.

“The State Department says it has called back Ambassador … ‘to discuss ways in which the United States can support strong, independent, democratic institutions and economies throughout Central America and the Caribbean.’”

Attention must be paid to two features here. Firstly, President Trump did not tweet in respect of this issue, nor saying anything about it.

It seems it is the State Department’s decision, which means the ‘Deep State’ is in charge of this policy orientation. In other words, be the president a Democrat or Republican, the outcome should be the same. Washington as a whole is deeply concerned with the switching.

Secondly, the timeline has shown an odd point. Panama switched to Beijing on June 13, 2017 (15 months ago), Dominican Republic did it on May 1, 2018, and El Salvador sealed the document on Aug 21. As what I highlighted in my weekly CDM comment on Aug 29 by quoting the Voice of America, the “State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert referred to Panama’s decision (in June 2017) to switch diplomatic ties from Taiwan to China as ‘an internal matter’ between the governments of Taiwan and Panama…”

Neither negative comment nor adversary action could we notice for the Dominican case, too. However, the State Department this time firstly criticized the El Salvadoran government two days after the diplomatic switching, and then recalled diplomats from the three countries altogether within one month of El Salvador’s official action. A change of stance is obvious and evident.

This recall serves at least two purposes. The immediate one is to warn the other two members of the “Northern Triangle” — Honduras and Guatemala — not to abandon Taiwan, or otherwise they would be in big trouble. As what I said many times before, by the time Taipei is at war with Beijing, Honduras and Guatemala (both of them supported the US at the United Nations’ voting regarding Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital) would be the only two middle men who may be willing to provide supplies to Taipei on behalf of Washington.

The implication is clear, namely, Washington is keen on seeing a war between Beijing and Taipei. By reading the neo-Realist camp’s journal The National Interest, you can see numerous and non-stop essays about this topic since mid-June.

The longer term goal is to tell Beijing that Washington is determined to assist Taipei to certain extent although everybody knows that Beijing’s victory will not be too difficult. However, the duration of the war will probably unnecessarily prolonged. The economical cost will be heavy. This hazardous signal has certainly forced Beijing to do the risk calculation all over again.

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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