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US recalls diplomats from 3 Central American countries over concerns about China’s influence

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Posted: Sunday, September 9, 2018. 11:53 am CST.

By BBN Staff: The United States (US) has recalled top diplomats from three Central American countries, namely the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Panama, after each of those nations recently severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of China. The diplomats have been recalled “to discuss ways in which the United States can support strong, independent, democratic institutions throughout Central America and the Caribbean,” according to a statement from the US State Department.

China maintains a territorial claim over the island nation of Taiwan, which currently only has 17 international diplomatic allies, most of which are small nations in the Pacific, Caribbean and Latin America. Taiwan has accused China of using ‘dollar diplomacy’ of persuading former Taiwanese allies of switching allegiances. Similarly, Taiwan has also been accused by China of using ‘dollar diplomacy’ to maintain it diplomatic relationships.

“American officials have expressed growing concern over the shift. The United States sells arms to Taiwan and maintains a diplomatic presence there, called the American Institute in Taiwan, now housed in a new $250 million compound. American officials see Taiwan’s de facto independence as an important hedge against Chinese dominance in the Asia-Pacific region — what the United States now calls the Indo-Pacific as it tries to strengthen ties with South Asian nations to balance against China,” a recent article from the New York Times said.

China, which is currently the world’s second largest economy behind the US, is projected to overtake the US as the world’s largest economy in 10-15 years, leaving US officials concerned about the impact of China’s influence in Latin America and the Caribbean, often called America’s backyard for its ripple effect influence on the region. American officials fear that the four nations in Central America that still recognize Taiwan — Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua — could soon follow.

“The move is an appropriate and serious signal by the U.S. government to those three countries and to the Chinese government that it is now reviewing the implications of the diplomatic switch and is worried that U.S. interests could be jeopardized,” a former US diplomat said of the decision to recall the three ambassadors. The diplomats, however, are expected to return to their respective posts by September 14.

Jorge Guajardo, a former Mexican ambassador to China, told the New York Times in their article that the United States should not be surprised as Latin American governments push back against American requests because President Trump has continued to alienate the people of Latin America.

“Trump has openly and systematically offended Latin American countries and their people,” Guajardo wrote in an email. “He labels us as rapists and criminals, has never traveled to the region as president, has deported and separated families, and threatened to cut all sort of aid. China comes with an offer of friendship and economic development (albeit one that I don’t think will pan out). Why the surprise?”

 

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