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Nicaragua breaks ties with Taiwan, switches allegiance to Beijing

The break with Taiwan, a blow to the U.S., follows months of worsening ties between Washington and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.
Image: China and Nicaragua sign the joint communique on the resumption of diplomatic relations in Tianjin
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu and Nicaraguan representative Laureano Ortega during a joint signing to declare diplomatic relations in Tianjin, China on Dec. 10, 2021.Yue Yuewei / Reuters

Nicaragua on Thursday broke its longstanding diplomatic ties with Taiwan, switching allegiance to Beijing in a recognition of the Chinese Communist party’s "One China" principle and reducing Taipei’s dwindling pool of international allies.

“The government of the Republic of Nicaragua today breaks diplomatic relations with Taiwan and ceases to have any contact or official relationship,” the foreign ministry said in a statement issued in Spanish and English.

“The People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government that represents all of China and Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory,” it added.

Chinese state media said government representatives from China and Nicaragua would hold talks in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin on Friday.

Taiwan responded quickly, expressing “pain and regret” at the decision, and saying that the Central American country’s president, Daniel Ortega, had disregarded the friendship between the peoples of Taiwan and Nicaragua.

But Taiwan’s government also expressed defiance.

“As a member of the international community, Taiwan has the right to exchange and develop diplomatic relations with other countries,” its foreign ministry said.

Taiwan will continue to promote “pragmatic diplomacy” to expand its international space, and strive to achieve Taiwan’s “due international status."

China says Taiwan is one of its provinces with no right to the trappings of a state, and has stepped up pressure to win away Taiwan’s remaining allies, especially in Central America and the Caribbean, with El Salvador and the Dominican Republic going over to Beijing in 2018, and Panama the year before.

China’s ambassador at the United Nations, Zhang Jun, congratulated Nicaragua.

“We highly commend the right decision made by the Government of Nicaragua, which is in line with the prevailing trend of the time and people’s aspiration,” he said in a tweet. “The One-China principle is a consensus widely accepted by the international community and allows no challenge.”

The break with Taiwan is a blow to the United States. It follows months of worsening ties between Ortega and Washington, and came on the day the U.S. State Department said it had slapped sanctions on Nestor Moncada Lau, a national security adviser to Ortega, alleging he operates an import and customs fraud scheme to enrich members of Ortega’s government.

The White House and State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last month, U.S. President Joe Biden ripped into Ortega, calling Nicaragua’s presidential election a “pantomime” as the former Marxist guerrilla and Cold War adversary of the United States won election for a fourth consecutive term.

Nicaragua’s move leaves Taiwan with just 14 formal diplomatic allies, most of them in Latin America and the Caribbean, plus a handful of small states.

It also follows threats by the incoming leaders of Honduras to break with Taipei. However, since the Honduran election last month, the team around incoming President Xiomara Castro has rowed back from that position somewhat.

Before Nicaragua, Taiwan lost two allies in quick succession in September of 2019, when the Solomon Islands and Kiribati went over to Beijing.